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In North American sports, team names usually follow a ‘location + noun’ formula. When it comes to European soccer, though, things are a bit different. Since we’re talking about clubs rather than individual teams, names are generally a bit more collective and less descriptive. There may be some that follow the familiar formula (think Manchester United), but there are also plenty of names that just seem random.

Take, for example, Arsenal F.C. What could that name and a cannon have to do with soccer?

If you delve into the history, there’s more of a connection than you’d think. Let’s break it down.

Arsenal started as a group of workers from an armament factory and grew from there


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These days, it’s not uncommon for a group of coworkers to get together and form a rec league sports team. That isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, a similar practice led to the birth of one of England’s biggest football clubs.

As laid out on Arsenal’s official website, the club was born in 1886, when “a gaggle of workers from the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory decided to form a football team.” The group initially called themselves Dial Square, referring to the sundial at the factory’s entrance, but quickly renamed themselves ‘Royal Arsenal.’ Over time, that evolved into Woolwich Arsenal, taking the name of the district of London where the factory was located.

After some financial struggles, though, the club decided that it needed to move to greener pastures. Royal Arsenal crossed the Thames and moved to Highbury in North London. There, starting a new era a bit further removed from its historical origins, the club rebranded again. Arsenal F.C was born.

While some things have changed — the club badge has evolved, and Arsenal now play down the road from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium — the branding has remained largely constant. The biggest difference is scale.

These days, Arsenal and their cannon are known throughout the world.

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