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As World Cup heats up, U-M professor settles soccer vs. football debate

Soccer balls
Peter Dutton
Creative Commons
Soccer balls

With the United States set to battle Iran in the World Cup this afternoon, there's an important debate: Is it soccer, or is it football? And the answer was found in Ann Arbor.

Stefan Szymanskiis a long-suffering England fan and a professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on the history of soccer.

Szymanski says back in the 1890s, in places like Oxford and Cambridge, they would often shorten words and add an “E-R” at the end.

“They played two games of football back then. Rugby-football, which they shortened to ‘rugger’, and ‘association football’, which is what most people in the world call football these days, and they appeared to shortened association to ‘soccer’.”

Szymanski says, despite the historical evidence, many British people still deny the word’s origin. He adds that it is a rare instance of a word being exiled from the culture that it originated from.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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