View Full Version : why is football called football?
Not A Tame Lion
09-07-2001, 11:45 AM
This question has probably been asked (and answered) before, but it's just about the right time of year and I'm wondering about it, so here it is: why is football called "football?" I'm speaking of the game played here in the USA, of course. Yes, you occasionally do some kicking in the game, but most of the time it's about holding onto the ball with your hands. Even in the old days, when drop kicks were part of the game, players still carried the ball more often than not. So why "football?" And I recognize the obvious (tenuous) connection to football/soccer, but our game is really more of a rugby sort of thing; so why not a variation of "rugby?" ("American Rules Rugby?") Ponder if you will.
09-07-2001, 12:26 PM
Rugby, too, initially was called "football".
Modern Rugby and "real" football, European soccer, both took their origins in games played in 19th century England. Those early games were invariably called "football" since most of the action was done using your feet. Later on, there were quarrels about whether or not to allow players to carry the ball. One fraction, being especially strong on Rugby university, said yes, and they began what is now Rugby (and was later on the model for the US thing). The ones who opposed to carrying the ball began what is now soccer/football, but AFAIK even Rugby was long after the diversion of the two lines called football, and it passed this name along to its American companion.
09-07-2001, 01:10 PM
Rugby is a Public (ie private) School, not a university. It is the same place as featured in "Tom Brown's Schooldays" and where Flashman was educated.
Not A Tame Lion
09-07-2001, 04:34 PM
OK so far, but still, it doesn't make a lot of sense. If you're creating a new game, even one based on an old game, why not call it something different, especially when the carryover name has little to do with the actual playing of the game. Baseball grew out of games variously called "town ball" or "one cat" or some such thing, but when it became baseball it became "baseball," if you know what I mean. Trying to hold on to the old name for nostalgia's sake doesn't really cut it.
09-07-2001, 05:01 PM
Because there already was a handball. :D
09-07-2001, 05:11 PM
Modern Rugby and "real" football, European soccer, both took their origins in games played in 19th century England.
European football (soccer) is much older than the 19th century. It was played at least as early as the 16th century. Back then, the pitch was a mile long and all the young men from one village would challenge all the young men from a neighbouring village using a pig's bladder as a ball.
It was an extremely rowdy game played mainly by "common" folk and the term "football player" was used as an insult by people of higher standing. There is a quote in one of Shakespeares plays (I forget which): "You base football player".
Rugby was invented at Rugby school, as mentioned. Rugby is a small town in central England.
Baseball is derived from an old English game called "Rounders" which is still played in schools in England.
Soccer and Rugby do not have common origins as Schnitte seems to be suggesting. They were both invented seperately.
American Football comes from Rugby. The full (and more correct) name for Rugby is "Rugby Football". The foot is used quite a lot in rugby - you are allowed to hoof the ball forward into empty space and then all the players charge after it. You are also allowed to score with the foot by kicking the ball over the horizontal bar in the H shaped goal.
The rules of American Football have changed over the years and kicking has become much less a part of the game but they still retain the original name.
The OED gives the first citation to football in the American sense of the word in 1881, although I'm sure it was used earlier, but there is no print source. The first college football game is often cited as being played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, although that game seemed more rugby-like. Harvard and McGill are also credited with playing the first American football game a few years later.
I'm guessing that Association Football (soccer) wasn't that popular in the U.S. in the 19th century and the American version of football took over the name "football". I believe that Association football didn't really become a fixture in the U.S. until there was sufficient immigration from the UK to give that game a place on the sporting map in the US.
09-07-2001, 05:32 PM
I take these extracts from the Guinness Encyclopedia Of International Sports Records And Results, which says as follows:
'The Chinese played a form of football, Tsu chu (meaning to kick a ball of stuffed leather), over 2,500 years ago. Other versions may have been played in various parts of the world, but much of the game's development came in England.
An early reference to the sport came in 1314 when Edward II issued a prohibition on the game due to the excessive noise people were making hustling over footballs in the streets of London. Three subsequent British monarchs also banned the sport, for one reason or another, until it became organised in the 19th century.
The first rules were drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848, and there were various modifications over the next decades.'
'The game of Rugby Union is traditionally said to have had its beginnings at Rugby School, when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a game of football in November 1823, and ran with it. The new handling code of football developed and was played at Cambridge University in 1839.'
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