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Every respectable soccer fan should’ve noticed the subtle difference in the team’s names and initials around the world.
Founders would name their clubs after the city they belong to, like Nashville SC or Liverpool FC, after an event like Chicago Fire SC, or religious reasons like Santos FC.
But why some of them are FC and others SC? What do FC and SC mean in soccer?
FC stands for Football Club and SC for Soccer Club. Contrary to what many believe, the word soccer dates from the 19th century in England, not the US.
The most admitted ancestor of the sport as we know it grew up in England in the 12th century. Back then, the game involved large groups of people in the streets, punches of the ball, and was way more violent; people may die during a match.
The deaths and the destruction of the cities after a football match led to its prohibition for many centuries.
The 17th century saw football-like games arise and be forbidden again, but by the mid-1800s, the sport had spread into British public schools.
What’s the origin of the initials FC in soccer?
What British scholars played in the 1800s was essentially the same game with different rules.
According to FootballHistory, there was Rugby, the game of running, and Eton, the game of dribbling. In Rugby, players were allowed to catch the ball with their hands; in Eton, they were supposed to use only their feet.
Rules needed unity so that students may face colleagues from other schools. The problem was, what were the rules they were supposed to follow?
Every school was playing its version of Rugby or Eton. That’s how, in 1863, The Football Association was born to create a unique code of regulations for each sport.
Then, in 1871 Rugby Football and Association Football officially became separate sports.
In 1872, one year later, the first international football match took place on a cricket pitch in Scotland. England visited Scotland and played an exciting game in front of 4,000 people.
England had eight forwards, one midfielder, and one defender. Yes, eight forwards. Meanwhile, Scotland was more conservative, with two backs, two midfielders, and six forwards. The final result? Of course, 0-0.
Way more popular than its brother, Football traveled overseas, reached South America, and the elites automatically adopted it. In 1863, Thomas and James Hogg tried to incentivize the practice of Football in Argentina.
They announced the game in a newspaper and played a match for two hours, an eight vs. eight game.
But it wasn’t until 1869, when Isaac Newell got into the Argentinian city of Rosario, carrying a ball and a regulations book, that people started practicing the sport of the “crazy British.”
At that time, railroad workers were British in the majority, and they played the game profusely.
That explains the numerous clubs named after a railroad company or a particular station in the country; they are more than five.
Isaac will inspire the creation of the Newell’s Old Boys de Rosario. A club that many years later will present the world of Football with Lionel Messi.
In Brazil, the sport arrived at the feet of Charles Miller, a young student that traveled to Sao Paulo with a few footballs and the regulation’s book.
At first, the ones practicing the game were British workers from two different companies. After the rumor that the British were practicing this exciting and strange game spread, people started spying through the walls’ cracks and imitating them.
Only the elites played Football in Brazil; therefore, black people were not allowed in the teams. Organizations forced black men to wear rice powder-based makeup to look whiter in the field.
Teams like CR Vasco da Gama and SC Internacional were the first to allow black players in their teams. It wasn’t until the Camisas Negras’ (Black Shirts) irruption, a talented and successful team formed entirely by black men, that people from the lower strata of society got interested in the sport.
But let’s travel back to Europe, the crib of the first Football Clubs. Industrialization played a crucial role in the foundation of clubs.
As the population grew in urban areas, and people started gathering in pubs, churches, and, of course, factories, they established Football teams in the major cities. People choose the main cities to use their brand-new railroads and trains to make it easy to travel and face other teams.
As described above, the first Football teams belonged to students, but it didn’t take long until workers dominated the space and created their Associations of Football.
Foot-Ball Club from Edinburg claims to be the first-ever; some argue and say it was Sheffield FC. We know for sure that the oldest club alive is Notts County FC, created in 1862.
Professional Football started when some clubs began paying the best players to join their teams, and after some friction, the clubs started selling tickets to those who wanted to watch the games.
But, if SC comes from Soccer Club, where does “soccer” come from then?
To help me answer this question, I had to dig into an academic document. Even when England and the US are not rivals inside the field, they are in the Football vs. Soccer argument.
A professor of sports economics at the University of Michigan, Stefan Szymanski, wrote a paper in 2014 called “It’s Football, not Soccer.”
In his essay, Szymanski shares a letter written to the editor of The New York Times, written by Francis H. Tabor in 1905, and published by the same newspaper.
In that letter, Tabor explains that aristocratic boys of Cambridge and Oxford universities in the 1800s used to add “er” to some words as a fad.
They would say things like “sport er,” “foot er,” and so forth. That’s how they’ve got the slang for Rugby, “rugger.” As it was more difficult adding “er” to Rugby’s brother, Association Football, they removed the first “A,” and that’s how “soccer” was born.
So, it wasn’t an American invention? No, it wasn’t. However, the Americans used the word soccer to differentiate the sport from Gridiron, what we call today American Football.
Americans considered Football to Rugby and the rest of the variations: Gaelic Football and Australian rules Football. But as it is possible to see in Szymanski’s work, lots of British publications from 1960 to 1980 used the word quite often.
There are plenty of examples of the usage of the word soccer in British publications in the past. For instance, the celebrated Manchester United coach, Matt Busby, named his autobiography “Soccer at the top.”
Or one of Best’s biographies, “George Best: the inside story of soccer’s super-star.” Jimmy Hill, considered vital in the development of British Football, named his autobiography “Striking for soccer.”
There’s also the autobiography of John Charles, called “King of soccer.”
It isn’t easy to know how or why the word spread even in England, where today is considered a heresy. Szymanski suggests a couple of possibilities.
In 1945, British people were more relaxed in the post-war era and therefore would see a more informal language with better eyes.
The term soccer used to be more accepted and present among the young, perhaps trying to recover their lost youth to the war.
In Britain, the word soccer had an informal tone, and the readers of newspapers like The Times of London would find it undoubtedly inappropriate.
That might be the reason why “soccer” snuck into more popular sectors of society. On the other hand, it was the easiest way for Americans to differentiate the sport from the rest of “the Footballs.”
The other possibility could be that at that time, the American soldiers established in Britain would spread the usage of the word that was already popular in the US.
By that time, American culture already had a sensitive impact on other cultures and was generally copied or imitated.
Clubs around the world have different initials in their names for various reasons. In Brazil, there are a lot of CRs, Clube de Regatas (Yacht Club).
There are teams named after the police, like the FC Punjab Police from India. Clubs are named after beer, like the Sporting Cristal from Peru.
There are even teams named after days of the week, like the South Kirby Wednesday FC, from England. But it isn’t easy to find a club with the initials SC for Soccer Club in their name outside the US.
And the usage of the word soccer is even harder to find outside the land of opportunities.
Perhaps as the Association of Football did it on its time with the sport’s rules, a new association will arise to end once and for all the discussion.
After long meetings and heated arguments, they’ll reach a decision (which I hope is Football), and then the clubs will decide their names and initials’ fates. Would they change their names or leave them as they are?
And maybe, many years from now, an internet article will explain why Football clubs have “Soccer” in their names and vice versa.