It may seem Americans are the world’s lone gunmen when it comes to using the word soccer instead of football, but Canda, Australia, and New Zealand are guilty of soccrilege (anybody?) as well. In fact, at least one-fifth of the English-speaking world calls it soccer, not football:
All data from Wikipedia. I broke the countries down as follows:
Football countries: England, Wales, Scotland, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Malta, Singapore, and Belize.
Soccer countries: Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and South Africa.
I tried to avoid English-speaking countries where there’s no clear winner — for example, the Philippines. There may be some debate over including South Africa as a soccer country, as its national team calls itself the South African national football team. However, the domestic league is called the Premier Soccer League, and the 2010 World Cup flagship stadium is called Soccer City.
Any disparity introduced by including South Africa as a soccer country is more than outweighed by this: not everyone in India speaks English as a first language — many Indians don’t speak any English. The same goes for many of the African countries listed as football countries. So if we were to get particular and exclude South Africa, we’d also need to ding India’s football population by a significant percent.
An 80/20 split means everybody should be happy. Football proponents can rest easy, knowing the beautiful game’s traditional name is securely dominant. And there’s comfort for users of soccer in knowing we’re more than just a handful of stubborn Americans.
Though it’s often confusing and inefficient, there’s no real harm done by using two different names for the same sport. It’s just the way language works. Sure, the game hails from England, but Americans invented trucks, and you don’t see us getting mad when English call a truck a lorry.
The obvious, as John Cleese states, is that the game Americans call football involves at least as much hand as it does foot, and its principal object isn’t exactly shaped like a ball. (As Americans, we’d eventually retort by pointing out cricket doesn’t involve insects. But first we’d run a monster
truck lorry into a wall of fried chicken, because so what?)
Some Extra Charts
For no good reason at all, let’s also look at the same two groups, using combined GDP as our metric:
And finally, an even less relevant chart: