What's the difference between soccer, futbol, and futsal?

I follow the English Premier League religiously and in our part of the world, ESPN and Star Sports are the channels of choice. They do a good job of keeping the football (soccer) fans in this part of the world happy.

If you’re like me and want to know the TV schedules ahead of time, so you can plan your weekend (pathetic I know), you have to click the TV Times link on the site. Then, select the country and the channel but when you come to the sport, it gets a little tricky. (Click on the thumbnail below to see what I mean).

Soccer by any other name...

If you want to watch football (which is what it’s called in this part of the world), you have to pick one of three options–soccer, soccer/futbol, and soccer/futsal. (There is an option called Football as well but I think that’s for the American football (NFL) games that ESPN telecasts.)

The correct option in this case (drum roll please) is door no. 2: soccer/futbol, something that I’ve found out by trial and error. It’s also something that I occasionally forget because it’s not so intuitive now is it?

Since ESPN-Star is a website primarily for the Asian region, maybe a bit of localisation would’ve helped. Using football to mean the kind of football played around here and American football to mean the kind of football played in the US would’ve been one way to avoid confusion.

And, if the terminology was consistent elsewhere on the ESPN-Star site, people would’ve gotten the message. It’s not. The menu bar near the top half of the page has an entry called Football. A lack of consistency, clarity, and unnecessary confusion means that the user will be unhappy.

These are problems that can be easily detected using simple usability tests. For websites which attract thousands of users it makes sense to do these tests, so you have to wonder why they’re not conducted.

Sometimes the ways of the developers and designers are mysterious to us common folks.

— Update: 30-Jan-2007 —

I was switching channels on TV today and came across a futsal match. It’s basically an indoor version of the regular football. You can learn more about it from Answers.com. I wonder why I didn’t check there earlier.


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