Origins of football

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One of the oldest known soccer ball, found in the rafters of a bedroom in Stirling Castle and dating from around the time Mary Queen
Incoming World Cup in Russia will (like all previous) be a world-wide event with billions of people watching final match. Clearly, football is a global phenomenon and is likely only to get bigger and bigger as the internet and social media make it easier for people on different sides of the world to watch matches.

So who invented football? The common view is that football was invented in England, coming to the fore in the 19th Century.

However, there are claims that it was the Scottish who invented football as we know it, as well as the Chinese also believing they played an integral role in the birth of the game. Some have claimed that football dates back to as far as 2500 B.C. with the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and the Romans all having played a game involving a ball and feet. Of these ancient games, the most relevant to football in its modern incarnation is a Chinese game called Tsu-Chu which means "kicking the ball", with records dating back to the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C. - 220 A.D. The game involved kicking a small leather ball into a net strung between two bamboo poles. Using your hand was permitted but the foot and other parts of the body were allowed. There was one crucial difference: in Tsu-Chu the goal hung about 30 feet from the goal. The Japanese, Native Americans and Indigenous Australians all played games that centred on the feet, too.


Left: An episkyros player on an ancient stone carving at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens

What is not in doubt is England's huge influence on the spread of football, and indeed, many other popular sports such as tennis and cricket. Around the 9th Century is when people in England began to kick around a pig's bladder in villages. Authorities saw it as a nuisance and in 1314 there was a decree issued, banning the game due to its "great noise in the city". In fact, Henry VIII ordered the construction of his own pair of football boots and was perhaps England's first football lad with his heavy drinking and womanising. At this point in time football was violent and disorganised and a long way from the balletic game we watch today. olk football began in England in the 18th and 19th Century and even spread to other countries such as France. It was played by huge numbers of people and the goals were as much as three miles apart. The object of the game was to drive a ball, usually a pig's bladder, to a goal, and could be kicked, thrown or carried. Unsurprisingly, the game was extremely violent and kicking an opposing player in the shins was a legitimate tactic - no matter how far from the ball they were. However, as Britain became increasingly industrialized and capitalist folk football became less popular, as people moved into urban areas.

It was in the public schools of England that football began to modernise. Hands were still allowed but goalkeepers and tactics were introduced and high tackles were outlawed. Space restraints were devised, too. Football clubs emerged in the 19th Century but the some incarnations of the game still resembled rugby more than modern football. Schools began to play against each other but violent "shinning" was only frowned upon when the player was being held. The Football Association (FA) was formed on 26 October 1863. They wanted to bring together the different codes and systems used across the country and handling the ball, shin-kicking and tripping were all outlawed. More clubs joined the FA until the number reached 128 by 1887. in 1872 the first FA Cup game was played and by the 1870s players were getting paid by their clubs. The English Football League was formed in 1888 by then Villa director William McGregor.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) was formed in Paris in 1904 with seven members. In 1930 the first ever FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay. The rest, as they say, was history.



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