A Post for the Soccer/Football Fans

The Nature Newsblog is reporting that mathematicians have shown that scoring begets more scoring in soccer football association football. I don’t have access to the Nature News article, but it appears that World Cup goals cannot be modeled as Poisson random variables.

Wondering why I called it association football? Do you know where the term ‘soccer’ comes from? Read on below the fold.


I had no idea why Americans play ‘soccer’ and Brits play ‘football’ until a few months ago when a football loving Englishman clarified it all for me. Depending on where you live, ‘football’ can mean very different things. In England, it refers to a game played by kicking a round ball into a goal. In the United States and Canada, it refers to a game played while wearing heavy padding in which the players attempt to get an oblong ball into an end zone (along with many other rules which I won’t even begin to explain). In Australia, football is a game . . . well, go ask John to explain football to you. And in Ireland football can mean this.

Each of these versions of ‘football’ (some sharing nothing in common other than the name) was given a descriptor. American football is what we play in the United States. Australians play, well, Australian football. Gaelic football is played in Ireland. And what Americans call soccer — and the rest of the world calls football, futbol, fussball, futebol, etc — was named Association football (or ‘soccer’ for short).

Wikipedia has much more.

I also picked up an interesting bit of advice when I was in Arizona from a Canadian living in Australia (hopefully you could follow all that). When cheering for your favorite Aussie rules club, never say you “root for them”. The word ‘root’ has a very different meaning down under.


  1. #1 BenP
    June 9, 2006

    It’s good to know, for the next month I’ll listen to a lot of soccer game (I’m canadian). With this new knowledge I’ll look like a real soccer fan ! Thx

  2. #2 John Wilkins
    June 10, 2006

    Australian football is called Australian Rules – it’s a bit like Irish football, with whom we play an annual hybrid game. There is a national competition called, unimaginatively, the Australian Football League. It is sometimes referred to derogatively as “aerial pingpong”, because the kicks (and the catches, called “marks”) are high. I grew up in the home state of AFL, Victoria, and never saw a game. I’m a nerd, what can I say?

    One “roots” in Australia by shagging/banging/screwing. So when Americans say they’re rooting for you, Australians break out in nervous giggles.

    One thing we simply fail to understand is why American football, which we call “gridiron” for some reason, is called football at all. They kick it just once in a sequence of events. And Rugby, whether league or union, is just called, well, rugby (or “thugby” if you’re a nerd).

  3. #3 RPM
    June 10, 2006

    One hypothesis is that all of the sports known as football trace that name (not rules, just the name) back to medieval Europe when peasants would play games on foot. This is in contrast to the lords, etc who would play their games on horseback.

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