The history of soccer

Iftu Ahmed | Published: April 06, 2018 22:10:13


Soccer is the world's most popular sport. More than 240 million people in over 200 countries play soccer. As a result, it has been the world's beautiful global sport. It has its ancient origin, history and heritage: 

China: Football is a gift from the ancient Chinese people. The kicking game called Tsu Chu in China was developed as early as 2500 BC. The word Tsu denotes "to kick the ball with feet," and the word Chu means "a stuffed ball made of leather." Tsu Chu game used to be played on emperor's birthday. It became the first exhibition match in ancient China.

During the Tsin Dynasty (255 BC-206 BC), Tsu Chu was part of a physical education programme to train soldiers. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), Tsu Chu was extensively played.

Japan: A Japanese game called Kemari was similar to Tsu Chu played in the same era. A match between Chinese Tsu Chu players and Japanese Kemari players was played during approximately 50 AD. Perhaps it was the first international football match.

Marco Polo (1254-1324), the celebrated Italian trader and traveller, brought Kemari to Europe, which already had its football.

Egypt: A football-like game existed in ancient Egypt around 2500 BC.  A linen ball, found in an ancient Egyptian tomb testifies to it. Many artefacts found in Egyptian tombs also provide evidences. Egypt qualified in the first round of 1934 and 1990 World Cup soccer.

Greeks: The Greeks developed a kicking and throwing game which was known as Episkyros around 2000 BC. Later the Romans adopted, renamed and transformed it into Harpastum which means "the small ball game."

The Romans: Harpastum, the rugby style-football, was played by Julius Caesar (100 BC- 44 BC), the Roman emperor, and his generals. It was a physical fitness programme for the Roman army.

The Romans when they had a growing empire, took Harpastum to the British Isles. History says that Harpastum matches were played between the Romans and the British natives. Later, the English developed the soccer football.

England: In 217 AD, football was played in England on a Shrove Tuesday to honour British warriors, who defeated a Roman military unit (cohort).

Shrove Tuesday means the day before the beginning of Lent. In the Christian religion, Lent means an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 weekdays to Easter.

Beginning in 1175, London school boys played football each year on Shrove Tuesday. Later football along with other sports was banned by the rulers several times to encourage people to archery, to develop the military might of England. 

In 1314, King Edward II (1307-1327) banned football for the first time. He said: "For as much as there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise, which God forbid, we command and forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city future."

Despite the ban, football remained very popular in England.

In 1603, when King James I (1603-1625) ascended the throne, people were urged to play soccer football. The King declared the sport legal. Then onwards, football spread throughout the British Isles.

In 1815, Eton College introduced the first rules of soccer, prohibiting the use of hands. The rules required playing soccer with feet.

The rule was broken by William Webb Ellis of Rugby College as he picked up the ball with hands and ran with it in a match in 1823. The result was the emergence of the soccer football and rugby football.

Rugby gained popularity in next 40 years (1823-1863). In 1863, London Football Association was formed. It voted to establish the old style of play based entirely on kicking.

And thus, the two different forms of football namely soccer and rugby were born in England. One is called "rugby" in which the players run with the ball, by kicking it, and the other called "association football", based on entirely kicking. The "association football" was finally abbreviated to "soccer football" or "soccer". Thus soccer is commonly known across the world as football.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley (1831-1924), the English sportsman, is considered the father of association Football and modern Football. He drafted the first set of rules of the game at his home in Barnes, London, as it is now played all over the world.  He was the first secretary (1863-1866) of Association Football and its second president (1867-1874).

FIFA: The international governing body of football is the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). It organises the most prestigious international football competition the FIFA World Cup or World Cup every four years. Its headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland. Six regional confederations are associated with the FIFA, and they are Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), Central/North American & Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), Union of Europeans Football Associations (UEFA), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).

In 1904, FIFA was formed in Paris, France. Only seven countries were its first founding representative-members, and they are Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

England did not participate among its founding members, and joined World Cup from 1950, despite England known as the birth place of modern soccer.

The founder of World Cup soccer was Jules Rimat (1873-1956). The World Cup was held in 1930. He was the president of French Football Federation (1919-1946) and FIFA (1921-1954) respectively. The original trophy of World Cup soccer was the Jules Rimat Trophy which was introduced in honour of him and awarded each four years.

Before 1966 World Cup soccer, the original Jules Rimat Trophy was stolen in England, and later it was discovered. After earning the first three time World Cup soccer championships, the original Jules Rimat Trophy was given to Brazil in 1970, but in 1983, it was stolen again. Since then, the original Jules Rimat Trophy was not recovered.

U.S.: During the 1870s, soccer was introduced in the United States by Scotch, Irish and English immigrants. In the beginning, soccer popularity was confined to Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New England, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco.

In 1913, the U.S. Soccer Football Association (USSFA) was formed as a national organisation, and in 1914, the USSFA got its affiliation with FIFA.

The U.S. soccer team played in the World Cup soccer in 1930, 1934 and 1950. No World Cup soccer was held between 1938 and 1950 due to World War II (1939-1945) and repercussions. The best two finishes by the US soccer team in the World Cup were in 1930 and 1950.

In the 1930 World Cup, the U.S. soccer team made history beating Belgium 3-0 and defeating Paraguay 3-0 respectively. The U.S. soccer team earned 4th place losing to Argentina in the semifinals.

In the 1950 World Cup, the U.S. lost 3-1 against Spain, but stunned the world beating England 1-0. Defeating England by U.S. can be considered one of the greatest upset results in soccer history. 

The writer writes from Aurora, IL, USA.

Email: iftuahmed@sbcglobal.net

Share if you like