History Lesson: The Origins of Soccer

Soccer games can definitely be stressful on fans! Cool off, take a break, and brush up on your soccer history with these facts on the names and origins associated with the world’s favorite game.

Soccer: This may be one of the more well-known facts, but have you ever wondered why the game is called “soccer” in America, anyway? This comes from a shortening of the game’s original name, association football, in 19th century Europe. Association was eventually shortened to soccer as we know it!

Original equipment: In those “simpler” times before professional leagues and worldwide broadcasts, soccer was played with wicker baskets for goals. As for the ball, players transitioned from using pig bladders to vulcanized rubber bladder replicas—or, as we’d soon more commonly know them, soccer balls—in the mid-1800s.

Papier-mâché cup: Every four years, we look forward to the world’s best teams and players coming together at the World Cup… but would the event be quite as impressive if the winner were given a trophy made of papier-mâché? This is the material the cup was made of until 1950, when heavy rains in Brazil proved that a stronger, more lasting solution was needed.

Name game: The origins of our favorite teams’ names can seem pretty confusing, especially to those unfamiliar with the European leagues. While sports like American football or baseball seem to have pretty straightforward names based on their city of origin, it takes a bit more knowledge of history to see why teams like Arsenal are named what they are. Incidentally, Arsenal was named for the armaments factory in Woolwich, Kent where workers first banded together and made a team. Chelsea, one of Europe’s most successful teams, was also named for its spot of origin; the team originally wanted to be called Fulham for the London Borough by which it was created, but that name was already taken, so the nearby borough of “Chelsea” was used instead.

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