Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. It is known as football in most part of the world except in North America. If the world can be unified into a single entity on the basis of a common ground of interest, then soccer has the potential to bring different nations together under the same platform. The history of modern soccer dates back to only 200 years. However, the evolution process for soccer to become what it is now started a long time back.
It is not very easy to dig out the origin of soccer as this is not well-documented in history. However, it is believed that the first form of soccer like game was played in China almost 3000 years back. There was a game called “Tsu Chu” played popularly in China during the reign of Han dynasty. The ball was made of leather with fur inside it. Like modern day football the rule was to only use your legs to hit the ball and use of hand was not permitted. The objective was to put the ball in a designated hole. This sport patronized by the king was a sport of honor. Even to this day the game is played in China but it does not share any similarity with modern soccer.
Almost at the same time when Chinese people were playing “Tsu Chu”, in Japan a game called “kemari” became a popular event which resembles modern day soccer to a little extent. Kemari was played on a special field with four individual trees namely cherry, maple, pine and willow standing tall at all corners. Rich people used to create their own fields by growing these trees. There were two teams competing against each other and the team size varied from two to twelve. Some historians believe that Chinese and Japanese are the first people to have played international sport events of kemari and Tsu Chu almost 2000 years back. The inscriptions on the tomb of Baqut II in Egypt had depiction of some sort of game played with ball by women. Not much is known about the rules and regulations of that sport or how and when it was played.
People in Greece played a sport called Harpaston considered by most the real origin of modern day soccer. There were different versions of this game some which were played using hand and some of which using legs. After the Romans conquered Greece, they adopted this game from the Greeks and renamed it Harpastum. Thus the basic building blocks of soccer were founded and soon Harpastum earned popularity all over Europe with the expansion of Roman Empire.
During the 6th and 7th century AD in Central America, people used to play a game similar to soccer. They used a ball made of rubber and the shape of the field resembled an “I”. There was a ring hanging in the middle of the field and the players had to pass the ball through that ring to earn scores. In the 7th century after Great Britain defeated the Danish force, the English soldiers beheaded the Danish king and kicked the severed head around to celebrate their victory. Before long playing with the decapitated head of the vanquished became a custom in many parts of the Britain. Since it was too violent to be considered a sport, many kings passed laws banning the practice.
The beheading of Danish king and playing with his head created a football culture among many of the British population. In 1331 King Edward III passed a law banning this killer game. Scotland also soon followed suit and banned the game in Scotland in 1424. This law did not reduce the popularity of the game an iota in England and it carried on with similar vigor and zeal. Queen Elizabeth I in 1572 enacted a law sentencing anyone playing football to imprisonment. In 1605 the law that made football illegal was removed and football again started to be played in England. At that time football could be played using both hands and legs and pushing and tackling were allowed.
In 1815 Eton College in Britain issued a set of rules for football forbidding shin kicking, use of hand to pass the ball around and tripping. This caused a divide in the football world. The players who played football using hands and tackling formed a separate sport called ‘Rugby’ while the version that we know as modern day football came to be known as ‘soccer’. Many colleges soon started playing the game against each other following the new set of rules. The rules also changed with time. The first comprehensive rule famed as the Cambridge Rule was passed in 1848. Cambridge Rule dominated the soccer for a brief period until Ebenezer Cobb Morley, founder of Barnes Club, called the attention of all the schools and colleges that participated in soccer for deciding on a consolidated rule. On 8th December 1863 first official rules for soccer came into practice and the first governing body of soccer called Football Association (FA) was created. Soon in the coming century this game would be the most played, watched and discussed about in the world.
There were a number of rules which changed in the earlier days. Offside rule was there but it was different at that time than the current one. Goal Kicks were introduced in 1869 and corner kicks in 1872. In 1872, the oldest football competition of the world ‘FA Cup’ started which is still played among many English football clubs. In 1886 a board called International Football Association Board was formed after a joint meeting of Scottish Football Association, Football association of Wales and the Irish Football Association. This board still oversees the rules of the game. With the colonization of England soccer expanded to countries beyond England and soon become popular in majority of the world by the turn of the century. Looking at the popularity of the sport a world governing body was formed in 1904 called FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association). Some of the European nations were the first members of FIFA. Soccer was played in the Olympics for the first time in 1900. England and its colonies at first refused to join FIFA and this caused a problem for FIFA in the initial years. However, by 1913 countries from other continents like South Africa, Argentina, Canada and United States also joined FIFA. After the WWI, FIFA organized the 1924 Olympics final match between Uruguay and Switzerland. It was a huge success. FIFA planned its first world cup event in 1930 but at the last moment many of the European nations pulled out because of deep economic crisis. 1930 Olympics was held with 13 nations participating and Uruguay was the first world cup winner. World cup became a regular affair in every four years ever since. However, it was not held because of WWII in 1941 and 1946.
After WWII, in an effort to re-launch the world cup a match was played between Britain and “Rest of Europe” and the proceeds were handed over to FIFA. From 1950 onwards the world cup took place every 4 years without fail. Brazil is the most successful nation winning 5 world cups and Spain is the current world champion. FIFA helped the game expand across the globe and currently 208 nations are registered under FIFA umbrella as soccer playing nations.
Pasuckuakohowog meaning playing with the foot was popular among American natives in the 17th century. Generally it was played along the shoreline and the field was at times as big as one and half mile wide. The number of players playing the game often exceeded 500. It was more of a violent war than sport. Often many players got injured during the game.
Although there were many natives in different parts of America playing soccer in different forms much before the 19th century but modern day soccer stepped into the United States through Ellis Island during the 1870s. In 1884 American Football Association (AFA) which was a regional body around New Jersey and New York region was born. However, it quickly spread to other regions in the next decade. In 1885 AFA conducted the first soccer tournament called American Cup. Initial decades of American Cup were dominated by New Jersey and Massachusetts. In 1911 a competing body called American Amateur Football Association (AAFA) was created and quickly spread outside of the Northeast US. In 1912 both the organizations applied for FIFA membership and by 1913 the AAFA gained edge over AFA and United States Football Association (USFA) was born. In 1924 USFA started the National Amateur Cup. During the early days a huge tension arose between American Soccer League and National Amateur Cup participants and governing bodies. It ended with the demise of ASL in 1925. During 1930s and afterwards because of WWII and great depression the popularity of sport overall reduced in US and especially soccer suffered. 1968 saw a new era in American soccer by the creation of North America Soccer League. In the next two decades it attracted the world’s best players including Pele and Beckenbauer. The soccer popularity seemed to be on the rise. Quickly expansion caused the demise of NASL in 1984.
In last 15 years soccer is again gaining some popularity among mass. One reason being the US national women’s soccer team doing very well in the world stage and also some of the best players of the world is coming to play in US domestic league.
– History of Soccer, Retrieved on 1st May, 2013 from http://www.historyofsoccer.info/
– A Football history : From beginning to now , Retrieved on 1st may,2013 from http://www.topendsports.com/sport/soccer/history.htm
– Association Football, Wikipedia , Retrieved on 1st may ,2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_football
– History of FIFA, FIFA, Retrieved on 1st May, 2013 from http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/index.html
– “Origins, History of the Game”. U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. Sports.
– U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
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