It’s no surprise that soccer has been around for centuries. A simple game of kicking a ball through a goal was played in deserts and fields long before we had stadiums. But how did soccer originate? Many have laid claim to it, including the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. Yet, it was the English who took this game and turned into what we recognize as soccer (or football in the UK). In 1863, the Football Association was formed and created the first governing body for the sport. The English created the uniform rules (e.g. the penalty kick) which are still in play today.
However, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the international governing body of association football as well as futsal, efootball and beach soccer. Founded in 1904, this non-profit group oversees international competitions among the national associations of Europe, including Switzerland, France, and Germany. What makes soccer such a unique sport is that players cannot use their hands (except the Goalie) to maneuver the soccer ball into the opposing team’s net. The direction and speed of the ball depends on a player’s feet, particularly the skills used to move the ball down the field while protecting it from opposing players. Soccer players can use other parts of their body to block and project the ball, such as the head and chest.
As mentioned above, many countries have claimed to have taken part in creating modern soccer. We first see the beginnings of soccer in China (5000 – 300 B.C.), where soldiers would play a game called Tsu Chu (“kicking the ball”). The ball was made of hair and feathers and was kicked into a hole or net, which was minuscule compared to today’s nets. The players were not permitted to use their hands. We jump to 1000 B.C. with Japan’s Kemari. It looks like playing hacky-sack, but with a larger ball. The objective of the game is not to score goals but to pass the ball to other players without the use of their hands. From 600 to 1000 A.D., we see the game taking shape in Mexico and Central America. This form of soccer was a bit more challenging because players had to project a rubber ball through a wooden or stone ring mounted in the middle of the wall in an I-shaped court. However, it was not until the 20th century when soccer gained its current rules and standard equipment (e.g. round soccer balls and larger nets).
Soccer has become a billion-dollar industry with millions of fans — and growing each year. What started as a game for soldiers has transformed into adult and youth soccer leagues. It is an international sport that continues to flourish. It will be interesting to see what changes will emerge in the 21st century.
Originally published at andrewelsoffer.org on January 9, 2020.