For millions of participants around the world, the term football refers to Association football, a team sport played according to the rules of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and FIFA, and known also as soccer. However, in specific countries, the word football has a different understanding and can refer to a number of other team sports, including:
- American football
- Australian rules football (or, colloquially, Aussie rules)
- Canadian football, a variant of the North American game, whose differences from the U.S. version include three downs rather than four, and a larger playing field. Canadian football is played professionally in the Canadian Football League
- Gaelic football
- Rugby football, which exists in these variants:
Development and differences
Football began in England as a folk activity and originally there were no rules about handling or kicking the ball (and other players). In the 19th century, the public schools began to create their own rules and a divide developed between the "handling game", championed by Rugby School, and the "dribbling game" which was favoured by Eton College and Harrow School.
In 1863, the Football Association (the FA) was founded in London and its Laws gradually became accepted nationwide by adherents of the dribbling game. As a result, the code of football known formally as "association football" developed independently of the handling game variants.
After 1863, it was only a matter of time before the handling game adherents formed their own association. This happened in 1871 when the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded, also in London. The RFU gave its name to the code known as "rugby union" from which the other handling game variants have arisen. The most contentious was the 1895 birth in northern England of what became "rugby league" following a bitter dispute about professionalism, an issue that association football had handled relatively well. Overseas, the handling codes now known as "American football", "Australian rules football", "Canadian football" and "Gaelic football" were all derived from rugby union by the end of the 19th century.
The word "soccer"
The word "soccer" began as a colloquialism in Britain, derived from the abbreviation "Assoc. football", itself taken from the name of the Football Association (the FA), to distinguish it from rugby football, but it has become the formal name of the game in the United States and Australia.
A similar term, "rugger" for "rugby", is also quite common. It is applicable to English rugby union rather than to rugby league which, in Australia, is popularly referred to as "footie".