What Country Invented Soccer ? A Look Back at Football’s Early History

What country invented soccer ? Often dubbed “The World’s Game,” the sport of soccer had to originate somewhere. Due to its accessibility and straightforward style, people all across the globe revere the sport, which shows when events like the World Cup occur.

As the 2022 FIFA World Cup gets underway in Qatar, which will be the 22nd edition of the tournament since it began in 1930, let’s take a look back to see which country invented the global sport

Which country invented soccer?

The early days of the sport take us to China, where “Tsu’ Chu” – pronounced tsoo-joo – was coined as a form of kickball, according to FIFA. This happened during the Han Dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD. The ball was made of leather and stuffed with feathers and hair, with the goal being a small net attached to long bamboo canes.

Other early forms of the game include the Japanese “Kemari”, which started around 500-600 years after Tsu’ Chu, Greece’s “Episkyros” and the Roman “Harpastum”.

Kemari is a form of players not letting the ball touch the ground as they all stand in a circle, which is still played today. There’s not many details on Episkyros, but Harpastum took some inspiration from it.

Harpastum’s main objective, which featured two teams and a small ball similar to the size of a softball, was for a team to keep the ball on their side of the field for as long as possible.

Tackling, wrestling and fighting appeared to have been permitted, but concrete details are not known, according to FIFA and History of Soccer.

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what country invented soccer

Did England invent soccer?

England is typically credited for inventing the modernized version of the sport beginning in 1863 with the founding of the Football Association, which differs from China’s origins.

The sport was played in England in smaller ways before the Football Association was founded, but having an official governing body helped establish rules that are still developing to this day.

When did the first ever international soccer game take place?

National teams from Scotland and England collided on Nov. 30, 1872, in what FIFA recognizes today as soccer’s first international match. The 0-0 draw between the two countries took place in front of a crowd of 4,000 people who packed into the see fledgling sport be played on the cricket grounds at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, Scotland.

Why do English fans say ‘It’s Coming Home’?

England’s national football team nickname is the Three Lions. In a song by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightning Seeds titled “Three Lions” released in 1996, the lyrics “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home” are what English fans started singing when the UEFA Euro 1996 tournament was held in England.

The slogan for the tournament was “Football Comes Home” as a way to refer to the sport’s history and the hope that England would finally win a major international trophy after having a drought that has lasted since 1966, when it won the World Cup.

England finished the 1996 tournament as semifinalists and still have not won a major title since, but came close when it was runner-ups to Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 competition that was held in 2021 due to COVID-19.

With England in Group B with the U.S., Wales and Iran in Qatar in 2022, keep a lookout for fans chanting and social media users saying “It’s coming home” as a nod to the Three Lions’ football program – one that is hoping to end a 56-year international title drought.

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what country invented soccer

Why Do Americans Call It Soccer Instead of Football? Blame England

In the World Cup, the U.S. and England aren’t traditionally rivals. But, off the field, a different type of rivalry has reigned for more than a century: what to call the world’s most popular sport.

To Americans, it’s soccer. To most of the rest of the world, (including England, the birthplace of the modern sport,) it’s football. But what most people don’t know is that the word “soccer” is not in fact an American invention. On the contrary, it was an import from England, and one that was commonly used there until relatively recently.

At least, that’s the argument made by Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports economics at the University of Michigan. In a paper from 2014, Szymanski writes that “soccer” originated in late 19th century England, as a way of differentiating between variants of the game which at that time did not have a commonly agreed-upon set of rules.

In the early 1800s in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game. But in 1863, the Football Association was formed to codify the rules of football so that aristocratic boys from different schools could play against one another.

In 1871, the Rugby Football Union followed suit. The two sports officially became known as Rugby Football and Association Football. (Those new rules were slow to spread to America, where another version of the game was evolving — one that the rest of the world now knows as “American football,” and is played in the NFL.)

In England, Szymanski writes, aristocratic boys came up with the shortened terms “rugger” and “soccer” to differentiate between Rugby Football and Association Football.

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To support this argument, he cites a letter to The New York Times, published in 1905: “It was a fad at Oxford and Cambridge to use “er” at the end of many words, such as foot-er, sport-er, and as Association did not take an “er” easily, it was, and is, sometimes spoken of as Soccer.”

And the term, Szymanski says, was widely recognized in England through the first half of the twentieth century, according to data he crunched from books and newspapers.

It became even more prevalent after the World War II — driven, he suggests, by the number of American soldiers in the country and the infatuation with American culture that came after the war.

But by the 1980s, Brits started to turn against the word. “The penetration of the game into American culture,” Szymanski writes, “has led to backlash against the use of the word in Britain, where it was once considered an innocuous alternative to the word ‘football.’”

In March, Szymanski co-authored a book alongside Silke Weineck, a literature professor and linguist at the University of Michigan. In Weineck’s words, the book – titled It’s Football, not Soccer (and Vice Versa) – “delves into internet culture, the history of sports and the history of words, the oddity of linguistic ostracism, the relationship between sports and nationalism, and so on.”

With England now into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, fans are celebrating their nation’s success in the sport born in their country but long mastered by foreigners. On Twitter, that pride is manifesting itself, partially, in the age-old (since the 1980s at least) tradition of bashing the word soccer.

“It’s football not soccer,” one person tweeted, on the night of England’s successful victory over Sweden which propelled the team to the semi-finals. “The English created the game = football.”

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