The History of Football: From Ancient Times to the Modern Game

Football as we know it today, sometimes referred to as association football or simply football, has its roots in England. In 1863, the Football Association was established to codify the rules of the game so that aristocratic children from different schools could play against each other. This was followed by the Rugby Football Union in 1871, officially distinguishing between Rugby Football and Association Football. The new rules were slow to spread to the United States, where another version of the game was evolving.

This version is now known as “football” and is played in the NFL. On Twitter, this pride is manifested, in part, in the old tradition (at least since the 1980s) of criticizing the word football. One of the best known differences between British and American English is that the sport known as football in Britain is usually called football in the United States. In fact, the word is of completely British origin.

So why are Americans (not to mention Canadians, Australians, and others) more likely to use the word than the British? The answer lies in how the sport developed in each country. Records trace the history of football from more than 2,000 years to ancient China. Greece, Rome and parts of Central America also claim to have started the sport; but it was England that made the transition from football, or what the British and many others around the world call “football”, to the game we know today. The English are credited with registering the first uniform rules for football, including a ban on tripping opponents and touching the ball with their hands.

It is believed that football matches first took place in England in the 12th century. In addition to kicks, these early games also involved blows with the ball with the fist. This early form of football was much rougher and more violent than modern football. An important feature of these forerunners of football was that matches involved many people and took place in large areas of cities (an equivalent was played in Florence since the 16th century, where it was called Calcio).

The uproar of these games would cause damage to cities and sometimes death to participants. These would be some of the reasons for proclamations against this game which was eventually banned for several centuries. But football matches returned to London's streets in the 17th century and were banned again in 1835. By this time, however, it had been established in public schools. Football began to evolve into its modern form in Europe from medieval times onwards.

Around the 9th century, entire peoples in England were kicking a pig's bladder from one landmark to another. The game was often seen as a nuisance and was even banned during some periods of British history. It is believed that football dates back more than 2,000 years in China and that it developed from ancient games which were often violent and could result in death for losers. Over time these games evolved into modern football. Modern football was invented in London, England, in December 1863 when the first governing body, The Football Association, was formed. This created a standardized set of rules for all teams to follow.

However, records trace its origins back to ancient empires such as China where Cuju was played as early as 3rd century BC. The Japanese had another variation called Kemari while ancient Greeks and Romans had ball games played with their feet. This was not much different from what had happened ten years earlier with football in northern England but authorities reacted differently at RFU trying to drive away support from working class people there. The origins of Australian rules football date back to 1858 when it was first played in Melbourne, Victoria. However it was England during 19th century when modern football began taking shape. Linguistically creative students at Oxford University during 1880s distinguished between sports of rugby (rugby football) and assoccer (association football). In 1920s confusion between “association football” and “football” led to use of term “football”.Some of best players throughout history include Brazil's Pelé (Edson Arantes Do Nascimento), who scored six goals at 1958 World Cup helping Brazil claim their first title; Lev Yashin from Russia who claimed saving more than 150 penalty shots during his outstanding scoring career; Marco Van Basten from Holland who won several very prestigious awards for only one year. Of 45 national affiliates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) where English is official or primary language most use word “football” in official names of their organizations; FIFA affiliates in Canada and United States use “football” in their names. However US and Canada use “football” as distinction from American football while other countries where word “football” is common have competitive forms of this sport. The battle between AFA (American Football Association) and AAFA (currently United States Football Federation — USSF) continues till today.

Wanda Lobdell
Wanda Lobdell

Professional food expert. Total sushi scholar. Lifelong social media practitioner. Certified food buff. General pop culture fanatic.

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