They call it the most popular sport in the world. Once again, I don’t know who “they” is but I’m pretty sure “they” aren’t Canadian.
Because we all know who the Canucks are. We are the ones who shake our heads with pity when people call hockey “ice hockey” and refer to soccer as “football.”
As we Canuckleheads all know, “football” is played on a rectangular field grid (not a ‘pitch’) by large men wearing 45 kg (28 pounds) of equipment while chasing a ball, which is called “pigskin” because it’s pointed on both ends.
Real “football” involves constant brutal contact between aforementioned armoured men the size of refrigerators bashing into and dog-piling onto each other whilst throwing, kicking, catching, hugging, running with and pouncing upon aforementioned pigskin.
This is with little or no obvious regard for personal safety or consideration of any resulting inconvenience such as extreme pain, broken bones or various mangled or missing body parts.
This is the real “football.”
The rest of the world, which apparently has a much larger population, seems to have popularized a different sport that they also call “football” and which most intelligent hockey fans call “soccer.”
In fact, several readers may have noticed that something called the World Cup is being played these days, on account of it is currently saturating every form of media including news reports normally covering Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and various cooking competitions.
In this kind of World Cup “football,” the ball is round and instead of cool helmets the players wear neon shoes and they aren’t allowed to touch the ball with their hands — or their opponents with a 10-foot pole.
In fact, in this kind of football (soccer), grown men drop like mortally wounded little girls whenever a member of the other team glances at, gestures at, or momentarily brushes against said grown man.
The mortally wounded player performs a dramatic swan dive that would score a 9.8 in any Olympic Games diving competition, and proceeds to roll around on the ground like he’s just had his spleen removed without the benefit of anesthetic.
Whereupon a “medical team” runs out onto the pitch (field) to somehow miraculously revive and repair the dying soccer player by spraying him with a can of miracle mist.
This aerosol treatment is supposedly some sort of freezing spray like nitrogen or perhaps methamphetamine that sooths the imaginary broken leg.
This allows the soccer player to miraculously fully recover and jump up unscathed as soon as he sees the referee flash a penalty card (the ace of spades) at the opponent who argues vehemently in a language the referee doesn’t understand.
I personally believe the miracle spray is probably your average DEET mosquito spray or possibly some nice Evian H2O vapour.
But the real issue here, of course, is why, out of 45 English speaking countries registered in FIFA (Fabulously Inconsistent Football Association), just two of them refer to football as “soccer.” Guess which two.
If you said the only two countries in the entire world that have football leagues with helmets and pigskins, you would be clever, insightful and correct.
Canada and the U.S. call soccer “soccer” partly because we already have football, thank you very much, to enjoy when hockey season is over.
Oh, and also, “soccer” was the original name of what international footballers like to call “The Beautiful Game” (especially when their team wins the World Cup).
Yep, that’s right! Those wacky Brits who invented fish and chips, umbrellas and English accents also invented soccer.
According to some expert in something or other that I heard on a CBC radio program whilst I was driving somewhere trying not to be distracted by the radio program, way back in 1860-something, there was so much playing with balls in England that someone decided to make some rules and form some associations, which of course, led to hockey.
Just kidding, it led to such official sports as “Association Football” and “Rugby Football” (hang on, the “soccer” bit is coming soon).
According to this expert radio interviewee guy, British school boys like to nickname things, so fish and chips became “bangers and mash” (close enough), umbrella became “brolly” and rugby was often “rugger.”
Likewise (and here comes the payoff, as explained by TodayIFoundOut.com): Association Football was then slanged down to as “assoccer,” which quickly just became “soccer” and sometimes “soccer football.”
Clear as a British mud puddle?
Lack of common clarity and common sense notwithstanding, the whole irony of the sad tale of the gradual oppression of the original “soccer” expression is that as the years went on (and more and more people started playing hockey instead), history shows us that the game gradually spread throughout the world under what had become the “lower class” name of “football.” And get this — by then the often boring, occasionally beautiful game was officially referred as “soccer” by the heady heights of British upper crust “gentlemen.”
Of course, it remained for the Canadians and Americans to keep the classy name of “soccer” and let the rest of the world operate under the delusion that soccer is actually called “football.”
But wait a minute.
When you actually think about it, what would anybody call a sport where players manoeuvre the ball with their feet?
Never mind, it’ll be winter before you know it and we can all enjoy watching a bit of stickpuck.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.