sahk-ê(r) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: A game played by two teams of 11 members each using a round ball that must be moved only with the feet. Only one player can touch the ball with his or her hands, the goalie, who may handle it only in a specific area around the goal. The object of the game is to score goals by kicking, heading, or otherwise pushing the ball into the opponent's goal.
Notes: Soccer is currently the world's most popular sport and more than 39 million girls and women play soccer each year. Today the World Cup Women's Finals will be played between the USA and Japan. Don't miss it! Around the world, this game is known as football, but in the US, Australia, and Canada, they play another game with a pointy-ended ball that is called elsewhere, American football.
In Play: To play this game well requires a mastery of foot skills. Imagine trying to write, drive, or cook with your feet and you can see the challenge. Because there are no timeouts and few set plays, the game also requires a constant creativity that has earned it the moniker: "the beautiful game". It can be played in bare feet on any surface, though level grass is best; all that is needed is a ball and desire. Soccer is played in the street, on the beach, on basketball courts, in 100,000 seat stadiums, by millionaires and by urchins. Its simplicity and ease of enjoyment have made it the second most popular youth sport in the USA where over 6,000,000 kids are currently playing.
Word History: Today's word comes to us through the process of playful abbreviation. The sport itself dates back to at least 43 AD, when it was known as "kicking the bladder". It was first named "fut balle" in the 12th century, when it was played by as many as 100 men on a field. The number of injuries from this play led to several monarchs banning it. Even today fan violence (hooliganism) is so rampant that larger stadiums have jails and courts built into them for processing rioting fans. As the Brits are wont to do, they slangily referred to the game as assoc football, short for association football, then just assoc. By the early 1900s, it had gained an -er, giving us assoccer, which was soon reduced to just plain soccer. (And thanks to alphaDictionary's own Brian Gockley for suggesting and writing today's Good Word.)
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