When Was Soccer Invented: The Full Story

When Was Soccer Invented

Soccer, or association football, is undeniably the world’s most popular sport. With an estimated global following of over 3.5 billion people, it’s not surprising that soccer captivates hearts and minds across the globe. The game has evolved significantly over the centuries, with its roots extending far back into human history. In this comprehensive account, we’ll delve into the origins of soccer, exploring its fascinating journey from ancient civilizations to the modern game we know and love today

1. The Ancient Origins of Soccer

While modern soccer was formalized in England during the 19th century, variations of the game existed long before then. In fact, the earliest forms of soccer can be traced back thousands of years to various cultures and civilizations.

a. Chinese Cuju (206 BC – 220 AD)

According to FIFA, the game of Cuju (also known as Tsu-Chu, which translates to “kicking the ball”) is the earliest form of soccer for which there is evidence. Originating in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), Cuju was played with a leather ball filled with feathers, and the goal was a small net attached to long bamboo canes. This ancient form of soccer was a popular pastime and a military exercise, demonstrating the sport’s long and rich history.

b. Japanese Kemari (7th Century AD)

Five centuries after the emergence of Cuju in China, a similar game called Kemari was played in Japan. Kemari involved players standing in a circle and passing the ball among them without letting it touch the ground. This game required exceptional skill and ball control, and it is still played in Japan today.

c. Mesoamerican Ball Games (2500 BC onwards)

In Mesoamerica, a cultural region encompassing parts of modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, ball games played a crucial role in the political, social, and ritual life of ancient civilizations. Although these games primarily involved the use of hands, some variants restricted the use of hands and focused on propelling the ball using hips, demonstrating the universal appeal of soccer-like games throughout history.

d. Greek Episkyros and Roman Harpastum (circa 8th Century BC)

In ancient Greece, a game known as Episkyros was played, involving players attempting to move the ball across their opponents’ boundary lines. The Romans later adapted this game into Harpastum, which featured two teams and a small ball. Although these ancient games involved throwing, catching, and some kicking, they were more closely related to rugby and other football codes than modern soccer.

2. The Emergence of Modern Soccer

The roots of modern soccer can be traced back to the British Isles, where “folk football” games had been played since medieval times. These games were chaotic and often violent, with few rules and large opposing teams rampaging through streets and fields to score points.

a. The Influence of British Public Schools (19th Century)

In the 19th century, British public schools played a significant role in the evolution of soccer. Institutions like Eton and Rugby developed their own versions of the game, with unique rules and varying degrees of ball handling. These school games laid the foundation for the development and codification of modern soccer.

b. The Formation of the Football Association (1863)

On October 26, 1863, the Football Association (FA) was formed in London by 11 clubs and schools, with the aim of creating a unified set of laws for the game. The FA’s establishment helped solidify the rules of soccer, including banning all handling of the ball except by the goalkeeper. This marked the beginning of the modern era of soccer as we know it today.

3. The First International Soccer Game (1872)

The first-ever international soccer game took place on November 30, 1872, between national teams from Scotland and England. This historic match, recognized by FIFA as soccer’s first international match, ended in a 0-0 draw and was watched by a crowd of 4,000 spectators at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, Scotland.

4. The Spread of Soccer Worldwide

Following the formalization of soccer in England, the sport quickly spread to other parts of the world, thanks in part to British imperialism and economic influence. By the late 19th century, soccer had gained popularity in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and the United States.

a. The Role of FIFA (1904)

In 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was formed, with representatives from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. FIFA is now the sport’s global governing body and organizes prestigious events like the FIFA World Cup, which began in 1930 and is held every four years.

b. Soccer in the Olympic Games (1908)

Soccer made its debut in the Olympic Games in 1908, further solidifying its status as a global sport. Over the years, soccer has continued to grow in popularity, with billions of people tuning in to major international competitions like the World Cup and UEFA European Championship.

5. The Development of Professional Soccer

As soccer’s popularity grew, so did its commercial nature. Clubs began to pay players, transforming them into professional athletes, and the first professional soccer leagues emerged. In England, the first professional football league season took place in 1888, featuring 12 clubs.

When Was Soccer Invented
Foto de Nationaal Archief na Unsplash

6. The Creation of Major Soccer Leagues

Throughout the 20th century, soccer leagues were established around the world. In the United States, Major League Soccer (MLS) was created in 1995, while the English Premier League (EPL) was formed in 1992, replacing the First Division.

7. The Growth of Women’s Soccer

Women’s soccer has also experienced significant growth in recent years, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch major tournaments like the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands attracted an estimated 16 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

8. The Richest Soccer Clubs

Today, soccer clubs generate billions of dollars in revenue, with some of the richest clubs in the world hailing from Europe. Real Madrid, valued at 4.06 billion, are among the wealthiest clubs in the sport.

When Was Soccer Invented 1
Foto de Vienna Reyes na Unsplash

9. Soccer’s Biggest Stars

Throughout history, soccer has produced legendary players like Pelé, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have captured the hearts of fans worldwide. These players have not only achieved tremendous success on the field but have also become global icons and ambassadors for the sport.

10. The Future of Soccer

As soccer continues to grow in popularity, we can expect new developments in technology, tactics, and talent. With billions of fans worldwide and an ever-evolving landscape, soccer’s future is bright, and its legacy as the world’s favorite sport is secure.