Last night I played beach football. See the photo above? It wasn’t like that at all. This is England in November, not Brazil. Imagine playing football barefoot at night, in freezing wet sand and horizontal rain. Still, it was great fun!
Anyway, back to language. I noticed that the venue where we played calls the sport "beach soccer". I wondered why they felt the need to use this American term in this country, where the term "football" is very clearly defined; nobody would expect "beach football" to be played with helmets and cheerleaders. I had a quick check and found out that in fact, soccer is a very British word:
1889, socca, later socker (1891), soccer (1895), originally university slang, from a shortened form of Assoc., abbreviation of association in Football Association (as opposed to Rugby football) (Online etymology dictionary)
As opposed to Rugby football? Explanation courtesy of wikipedia:
The first revision of the rules for the modern game was drawn up over a series of six meetings held in the social room of the public house from October till December . At the final meeting, F. M. Campbell, the first FA treasurer, and the representative from Blackheath, withdrew his club from the FA over the removal of two draft rules at the previous meeting, the first which allowed for the running with the ball in hand and the second, obstructing such a run by hacking (kicking an opponent in the shins), tripping and holding. Other English rugby clubs followed this lead and did not join the FA but instead in 1871 formed the Rugby Football Union. The term "soccer" dates back to this split to refer to football played under the "association" rules.
The word "soccer" must have been exported to America along with thousands of British-born immigrants, and it must have stayed in common use because another game involving feet and balls was born, making it necessary to distinguish between the two. But still, why this propensity to use the term "soccer" here?
As I was nursing my sore feet later on and thinking that this game really isn’t suited to dark, cold, wet and windy countries, the penny dropped. Could this Americanised name be due to the fact that this game is an import? It was born on the sunny beaches of Brazil before its laws were codified in 1992 in Los Angeles, hence a strong American influence (see wikipedia). When it arrived in England, it was already branded as "beach soccer", and this stuck.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?