As a big soccer fan who carefully follows all the matches and knows all about the best teams and players, have you ever wondered how it all started?
History of soccer is definitely one of the most interesting histories in the world of sports. Stick with us and let’s find out how this sport became widely popular in Europe and the Americas.
Believe it or not, soccer is made in China. Early pieces of evidence of this sport being played are found in China and date from 2 and 3 centuries BC. During the Han dynasty, Chinese were playing by kicking the leather balls into a small net strung between two bamboo pools. The game was called cuju, and as stated by FIFA, this is the earliest known form of football.
Some facts also point to Japan, Kyoto, to be more precise. During the Asuka period, Japanese were playing a game known as kemari. The basic rule of that game was to kick a ball and try not to drop it to the ground. As we can see, this is something that reminds us of keepie uppie, so we can definitely see the connection between the basic concept of kemari and today’s football.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans also played some games which involved different types of balls. For example, it is known that Romans played a game called herpastum. It is believed that they adopted and adapted a Greek team game known as episkyros.
However, these particular games are more similar to rugby football than soccer. Still, they represent some of the earliest forms of football and therefore are considered to be its ancestors.
The Roman politician Cicero even describes a particular accident caused by a ball. Namely, a man was killed in a barbershop whilst having a shave when the ball was kicked into the shop hitting him in the head and causing the razor blade to cut him. Even during these times, football was definitely a thing to talk about.
Also, there are other games considered to be some earlier forms of football. Pahsaherman was played among the Native Americans, while Marn Grook was played among Australian Aborigines.
Medieval History of Football
Football was also played during the medieval times, and since then it’s an integral part of British history. However, football wasn’t always seen as a harmless activity, and it was even banned during some historical periods.
Around the 9th century, people were kicking pigs’ bladers in the streets. A few centuries later, players had something more similar to a ball, but they didn’t have standard rules. It was some kind of “folk football”. The aim was to get the ball into the opponent’s goal and the basic rule was: there are no rules at all.
Since almost everything was allowed, kicking, biting and punching were a crucial part of the game. In fact, the two teams that played one against others were more like some kind of gangs fighting each other.
Eventually, “folk football” became very violent, but also very popular. It is said that even soldiers were missing their archery practices just to watch the entertaining show. However, some kings didn’t find it enjoyable. Therefore, King Edward III banned the game in 1365 because of the violence and military indulgence in the sport. In 1424 king James I of Scotland also banned soccer by proclaiming in the Parliament that no man shall play football.
However, today there’s no man who didn’t play football or who doesn’t enjoy watching it. But how did we get to that? What happened next in the following developing stage and when exactly was modern-day soccer born?
The truth is that it’s hard to say when precisely modern soccer was born, but we can say that Britain played a crucial role and it’s known to be one of the most important founders of the systematic game of soccer.
Great Britain as A Home of Modern Soccer
At the beginning of the 19th century, with industrialisation, we saw quite a change in all domains of everyday life. First of all, people had started to work. In other words, less leisure time for the worker class. Soccer started to become an activity for public and private universities, colleges and schools.
In 1815, the famous English School teamed up with Ethan College to make a list of rules, which is known as the Cambridge Rules. Before that, soccer was characterized by a set of rules that reminds us more of rugby. It was allowed to push players, carry the ball with hands, etc. Cambridge rules, on the other side, prohibited these rules.
October 1868 is another important date in the history of football. Representatives of 11 London clubs and schools arranged a meeting at Freemason’s Tavern to come forth with the basic principles of matches among them. That’s how the Football Association was born. Until then, hands weren’t strictly excluded, but the new association decided to forbid any handling of the ball too.
Football Amateur Players Turn Professional
Soccer’s popularity grew more prominent and was shared across the globe thanks to British sailors, soldiers and traders. Even though some forms of “folk football” were played in France, Italy and Germany it’s in the 18th and 19th (after the formal foundation of the rules) that this sport became really popular.
Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina were one of the first countries to adopt the concept of soccer, and that’s how it was brought to the American soil as well.
Again in Britain, in 1872, the first Football Association Cup was played. Some new divisions were formed too. In 1888 the Football League was created and the first championship leagues matches were played.
As per Football Association rules, players had to remain amateurs and not receive any compensation for their performance. However, that’s something that pretty soon became an issue. The players were unsatisfied with the fact that they had to spend a lot of hours of training and playing. On the other hand, the clubs were charging spectators to watch the game.
As the popularity of soccer grew bigger, the number of spectators and revenue of the clubs increased too. Therefore, the clubs decide to start paying their players and soccer has become a professional sport.
The Rest is the History
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was established in 1904. The following countries were one of the founders: France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.
Surprisingly enough, England and other countries of the British soil didn’t join FIFA at first. They saw themselves as inventors of the game. Therefore, they thought that they deserved a certain amount of independence and there were no reasons to become equal with other countries of the association. Nevertheless, the following year, these countries joined FIFA, but they didn’t participate in the World Cup until the 50s.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, to be more precise, by the early 1930s, many countries had already formed their domestic leagues. In 1930, FIFA organized the very first World Cup. It took place in Uruguay. The football’s international governing body picked Uruguay as host country to celebrate the centenary of the country’s first constitution.
Uruguay was also the title holder of the 1928 Summer Olympics, and won the first World Cup, while Argentina, United States and Yugoslavia managed to win their groups and placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively.
Until that year, the Olympic Games football tournament was considered to be the most important event. What’s more, after domestic leagues have been established, over time they expanded by different divisions, based on the teams’ performances. In 1991 the first World Cup for women was organized in China and since then it takes place every four years.
Soccer As a Global Phenomenon
Naturally, as the sport developed over the years, there have been some changes. For instance, the penalty kick was introduced pretty early, right in the beginning of the history of soccer, or to be more precisely in 1871.
On the other hand, some other recent big changes that we see during every match were introduced later.
Yellow and red cards date from the 1970 World Cup finals. In 1992 it was banned to goalkeepers to handle deliberate back passes, while in 1998 tackles from behind started to result in red-card penalties.
From 13 countries that participated in the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, today there are over 200. From just a few nations that founded FIFA, now there are 211 national associations.
Six confederations appeared for different world regions: UEFA (Union des Associations Européennes de Football), AFC (Asian Football Confederation), CAF (Confédération Africaine de Football), CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), CONMEBOL (Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol) and OFC (Oceania Football Confederation).
As you can see, there’s no corner of the earth where the ball isn’t kicked. From Ancient Egypt to the 21st century, this sport went through a lot of changes. However, during the last 3000 years, this is one of the most popular ways of having fun.
The history of soccer, rich in events, decisive moments and its neverending popularity, is something that we could talk about for days. But for the purposes of this article we have chosen some of the most important dates of the past. Now it remains to be seen what the future will bring us.