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Why Is It Called Football?

name of American football

Football is one of the most widespread sports globally – loved, enjoyed, and played by many. There is a thrill in kicking that little sphere ball around… wait… are we talking about the same game? Ohh, you mean soccer. We actually call that game soccer. Football, for us, is something entirely different. What we know as football, the rest of the world calls “American Football.” It makes sense to call soccer “football” as they use their feet to move the ball, but why America’s favorite game is called football?


Are you curious too? Well, keep on reading because we are going to find out why it is called football.


Origin of American Football

American football is known as football due to its foreign origin and ancestry. American Football is related to Europe’s two most famous sports: rugby and soccer. These three games belong to the same family and started as a kicking game and evolved into what we see today.


Let’s take you back to the history of soccer and rugby to better understand the evolution of football.



Soccer is a sport that directly uses the feet, and any involvement of hands is considered foul play. It was initially called “association football,” which was a mouthful. Hence, people, mainly newspaper reporters, started to call it “assoc,” which then was reduced to “soc.” Eventually, the “soc” evolved into “soccer.”



Rugby, a popular sport in England, also started as a football game but only until 1983. A little modification in the game occurred in 1983, changing the entire sport of rugby. All the credit goes to the player William Webb Ellis. Rather than kicking the ball across the goal line, Ellis picked the ball in his hands and ran across. At the outset, the observers and spectators were confused and didn’t know what to make of this. But ultimately, they decided it was a good idea.


Evolution of Soccer and Rugby into Football

The birth of American Football is a series of evolution– soccer turned into rugby turned into football. In the late 18th century, soccer and rugby found their paths leading to America. By 1850, various interpretations of rugby were played in the United States. In 1869, Princeton and Rutgers University played the first official game in which an oblong ball was allowed to be carried, picked, or kicked to score. The purpose was to throw the ball across the goal area. This game continued for many years.


Modern football began to emerge after a game between Yale and Harvard. Walter Camp, a Yale undergraduate and the football team captain, influenced the newly formed rules. Because of Camp, the Football Association changed the game’s opening, eliminating the “scrum” and replacing it with a requirement that a team would have to surrender the ball if it fails to travel across a certain distance on the field in a specific number of attempts.


Moreover, Camp also introduced the 11-player team format, the scrimmage line, the quarterback position, offensive signal calling, and the scoring scale in American football. Then in 1906, forward passing was introduced, and the game became what we play today.


Why Is It Called Football?

So, why is it called football? They could have called it American Rugby. Technically, that is what the game is. Anyhow, there are a few reasons why it is known as football, including:

  1. Some historians say that Americans call the game football as it emerged from European Football. Due to tradition, they left the name that way and haven’t changed it since then. This is one of the reasons why they call “association football” soccer- to distinguish American Football.
  2. There has been another analysis on the name of the Football that the name is given due to the ball used in the game. The oblong, egg-shaped ball is around one foot long. So, combining the ball’s length and the ball itself gives the name “football.” However, it is just an analytical approach to make sense of the name and the game.


Frequently Asked Questions FAQs Regarding Football

How Many Players Are There on A Football Team?

There are 22 players on the field during a football game: 11 players from each team, playing at different positions such as the offensive line and the defensive line.


Who Invented Modern American Football?

Walter Camp is known as the father of modern football. He was a Yale undergraduate and medical student, playing as a team captain and halfback. Due to his involvement and influence in the game, several new rules, such as an 11-player team format, scrimmage line, offensive signal calling, etc., were introduced, evolving the entire game.


Which Was the First Professional Football League?

American Professional Football Association (APFA) is recognized as the first professional football league. It consisted of 4 teams initially but expanded as the time passed. Due to APFA’s popularity, the association merged with NFL in 1971.


What is the NFL?

The NFL is known as the National Football League. It was founded in 1920 with only 4 teams; today, it consists of 32 teams that are a part of the National Football Conference (NVC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).


What Are Five Fun Facts About American Football?

  1. American football is a cousin of soccer and rugby.
  2. On Nov 6, 1869, the first official football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers.
  3. NFL manages around 250 games per year.
  4. The longest football game was 4.5hours, including 8 overtime periods.
  5. American football has the shortest professional sports season.


Our Final Thoughts

All of America’s favorite game is football. People play it for recreation and make careers out of it. This sport has a fascinating history. The origin of American football dates back many centuries ago. The evolution of European football, or soccer, into rugby further evolved into American Football. But why is it called Football? Well, it is mainly called football because of its European roots. The name just stayed, and Americans love it.