The history of Football

The history of football has been debated for a long time. Because it is a popular sport worldwide, its origin is claimed by several countries. There is no doubt that the sport as it is played in the 21st century originated in Great Britain.

football stadium


Earliest forms of football

It is unclear when and where football was first played. Historians have found evidence from sources around the world suggesting that humans played football-like games long before the 1800s. For example, in the China of the third century B.C. have already played a kind of football (cuju) in which the intention was to get a leather ball, filled with feathers, into the opponent’s net. Also with the Romans and Ancient Greeks, there are supposed to have already been types of football. During the Middle Ages, people in England played football with an inflated pig’s bladder. This game became so popular that it was banned altogether in the thirteenth century. The ruling class felt that this football game distracted too much from more important matters.

The early 19th century

In the centuries that followed, people all over the world continued to play with a ball. This is also the case in England, where especially the working class enjoyed the game. It provided fun and social contacts, which the workers could use at a time when the Industrial Revolution had changed English society to such an extent that the so-called workers had to work six or seven days. Yet in that early period there was a lack of uniform rules and proper arbitration. This led to many football games ending in quarrels and sometimes even fights. There was no rule yet that only 22 players could be on the field. More than a hundred people took part in some competitions. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that matches often degenerate into kicks and fights. The English government was even forced to adopt a so-called highway act in 1830 that would ensure that anyone who played football on a large road could be fined for this.

Football as a school sport

Football started out as a sport for the working class, but this changed when the game became popular among the elite students of prestigious private schools such as Cambridge and Oxford. Football had been played in these schools for some time, but from the middle of the nineteenth century things moved quickly. After all, football began to take its current form in these student-like circles. The schools saw this sport as an excellent way to keep their students in good shape. “A healthy mind in a healthy body” has been the motto for centuries.

As the game became more and more popular, the need to create rules also arose. The first real rules are said to have been laid down at Eton and Aldenham in 1815 and 1825. One of these rules was the offside rule, still one of the basic rules of the game. A further regularization of the game happened at Cambridge College, where in 1848 the students came up with the idea of ​​drawing up regulations. Important rules regarding throw-ins, kicks and the protection of the goalkeeper were laid down here, which have hardly been adapted in later times.

The only problem with all those rules was that each school had its own rules. This was especially difficult when two different schools were competing against each other. This ‘problem’ was solved by following the rules of the home team in such a match. Nevertheless, the differences in rules between the schools were sometimes so great that a mutual competition was not possible. For example, in some rules a player was even allowed to carry the ball with his hand. The sport of rugby would eventually develop from this. Football originated from the variant of the game where only the feet were allowed to be used.

Football Association

Due to technological advances in transportation, more and more matches were played between schools and teams from different parts of the country in the 1840s. Football became even more widespread in this way and gained more and more popularity. Although the sport had evolved from a working class sport into an elite sport, the latter would soon reclaim their sport.

After all, in 1850 the British government passed the Factory Act, a law intended to ensure that children’s long working days would be limited from now on. This gave the British children a lot more free time in which they could also play football. This set in motion a movement that would lead to the global sports experience we know today. After all, those children who started playing football at an early age kept the love for the sport all their lives and passed it on to their children. It was they too, who, when they grew up, would become the first players of the first professional teams. And what is a professional team without fans? Those who grew up with football, but did not earn their living with it, naturally supported the local team. Football started its rise in the mid-1950s.

Official football history begins in 1863 when the Football Association (FA) was founded in England. It made use of the Cambridge rules laid down in 1848. The large private schools joined the organization. The British meanwhile brought football to other parts of the world.

Professional football

With the advent of the Football Association, the professionalization of football began to increase. Clubs were founded and players were hired. Professional football was accepted by the Football Association in 1885. With the arrival of the first real competition for the Football Association Challenge Cup in 1871 and the formation of a Football League in which the top clubs competed against each other in 1888, football was completed. The sport became popular all over the world and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) was founded in 1904 and an international competition was born.


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