Soccer (association football) is a popular sport in the world today. During the 2018 World Cup with France against Croatia, more than one billion people tuned in to watch the match. American Football (NFL) gets around 100 million viewers each year to put that in perspective.
While the game of soccer (association football) is wildly popular today, did you ever wonder who invented it? Most would assume it is a British sport, which is true via modern soccer in 1863, but it also has had early history in China, Japan, Rome, and Greece. These places had a similar concept to modern soccer, where players dribble and kick a ball into a net. As the years went by, the game began developing into what we know of it today.
Here is the complete breakdown of who invented soccer, where did it originate, and more!
Early History – Japan, Rome, Greece, and China
Early records of soccer date back to Japan and their game, Kemari, in 600 A.D. At that time, the game resembled a type of hacky sack competition between players.
Both Romans and Greeks in the 2nd century would play a similar version of modern-day soccer. The roman game was called Harpastum, and in Greece, it was Episkyros. The games back in the day were violent at times, and the balls were made with pig bladders and animal skin.
One of the earliest forms of football (soccer) dates back to a Chinese military manual called Tsu’ Chu (and Cuju) in 206 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. Tsu’ Chu means “kicking the ball,” and the game was played with a leather ball filled with feathers and air. The concept of Cuju was to kick the ball into a net, which is the same as it is today in modern soccer, to score points.
Early History – 9th Century in Britain
English town residents would play a version of soccer known as “folk football,” where they would kick a pig’s bladder around the street. The game would occur on the roads in Britain, and the boundaries of in and out were loosely defined.
There were no uniforms at this time, and the game didn’t have any modern game rules or etiquette that you will see today. Also, the game was more similar to rugby with hard tackles than what you see in the game today.
1848 – Cambridge Rules Begin
At the start of the 19th century, private and public schools began incorporating a “football” type of game during the day with students. The students would play that game that had two goals and a field, and the objective was the get the ball into the goal. However, some schools would play the game by holding onto the ball, like ruby, and some would kick and dribble the ball, like present-day soccer.
As the popularity of this sport grew in Britain, so did the emergence of soccer clubs. Players began playing against other schools, but the rules differed between schools, making the play difficult. To help standardize the game, teachers from various schools met at Cambridge University to develop a set of rules.
Some of the new soccer rules removed running with the ball with your hands, awarding goals going between the goalposts, and only allowing throw-ins when the ball would go out of bounds. In addition, players would wear the same cap on their heads to identify each other as being on the same team during a match. Finally, players could no longer kick each other in the shins on purpose, or a penalty would occur.
The Invention of Modern Soccer – 19th Century
Modern soccer, with the now acceptable set of rules from Cambridge, began in England in 1863 by forming clubs (football clubs) to play games against one another. During this time, teams would add an “F.C.” to the end of their name, which meant football club. Doing that was a simple way of explaining that your football club was representing a school or town, like Liverpool FC would mean the football club of Liverpool. Thus, with more clubs joining the game, the governing body, the Football Association (F.A.), began.
The Expansion of More Association Football Leagues
As the years went by, more teams began joining the Football Association. 1872, for the first time, had the Football Association Cup, which was between the Royal Engineers and Wanderers. The Wanders won that match 1-0
Soccer players at this time were amateurs and were not getting paid to play the game. However, as the sport grew with more teams and more revenue for fans attending games, players began making money for their time and effort. Thus, the focus on getting better at the game increased, which led to a better watchable product for fans and inspired more people to play the game to make money.
The Worldwide Growth of the Beautiful Game
With the growth of association football (soccer) in Britain in the late 1800s, other countries began adapting those same game rules to their residents. Places like Chile, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Scotland, and more began incorporating soccer as a sport.
The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) began in 1904 to help standardize the sport across the world. In 1930, the first World Cup took place in Uruguay, which had 41 teams at that time. Uruguay won the first FIFA World Cup against Argentina that year 4-2.
Who is the Father of Soccer?
Ebenezer Cobby Morley is one of the original fathers of the Football Association. He was the founder of Barnes Football Club back in 1862 and was even captain of the squad for several years. Barnes Football Club played the first-ever soccer game in 1863 against Richmond Football Club.
Along with owning the Barnes Football Club, he was instrumental in crafting the 1863 Laws of the Game and the rules to make modern soccer what it is today. Back before 1863, there was different type of soccer rules between teams, and some games were similar to rugby, where players would carry the ball with their hands, while others would only kick the ball. Morley was one of the pioneers to remove the rugby style of play and play the game with their feet.
Soccer (Association Football) Today
Today, soccer is played worldwide from professional to youth soccer leagues. The rules of the game are standard, with a set of eleven players on each team playing and not being able to touch the soccer ball with your hands unless you are the goalie or are throwing the ball into play. The FIFA World Cup, which occurs every four years, is one of the biggest spectacles in the world.
Conclusion: Who Invented Soccer (Association Football)
In summary, many countries had a part to play in forming soccer (association football) that we know and love today. However, back in 1848 and 1863, England began modernizing the game with a set of rules and uniforms. As the modern football sport grew in popularity between different schools and towns in England, the game’s intrigue grew to other countries. Thus, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) began in 1904.
Today, the game is more popular than ever. Over 1 billion people tuned in to the FIFA World Cup in 2018, and the sport continues to grow. Even MLS (Major League Soccer), adds more teams in the United States to compete in the beautiful game.
Next time you get asked who invented soccer, you can say that many countries had a hand in shaping the game, which is why it is a global phenomenon. However, England still receives credit in tying everything together from many different rules into one set of agreed-up ways to play the game. That is why most people credit them as the inventors of soccer.