Where did soccer originate ? Soccer, football – whatever you prefer to call it, is a game of passion. It stirs the soul and evokes the strongest of emotions amongst even the toughest of crowds. Unlike the game itself, the history of soccer hasn’t always been so beautiful.
A few hundred years ago, soccer looked very different from what it is today, which is played by more than 250 million people worldwide. Introducing new rules to the modern game of soccer constantly changes and evolves the ball game we know today.
To an outsider, the aim of the modern game seems simple – kick the ball into the opposition’s net more times than they do, and you’ll walk off the soccer field victorious. But the team game is a lot more complicated than that.
For a true appreciation of the game, we need to go back in time. As we begin our exploration of soccer, we’ll go back to the very beginning. There was a time in ancient times when a loss could have very serious consequences
The Ancient History of Soccer
So how did soccer originate? The history of soccer dates back over 2000 years ago. It’s a little unclear when soccer was invented. However, the Aztecs may have invented the earliest version of the game.
The Aztec soccer game was known as ‘Tchatali,’ where the aim was to get the ball through a stone hoop…without using your hands. The ball game had deep religious and political ties, with the ball symbolizing the sun. It’s believed that the losing team’s captain would often be sacrificed to the gods.
Another version of the game has also been documented as early as 206 BC during the Han Dynasty in China. This game was called ‘Cuju’ or ‘Tsu Chu’ and was played to keep the Chinese military in shape.
This ancient form of soccer involved one set of bamboo goalposts erected in the middle of the field. The ball was made from rubber and filled with fur or feathers. The aim was to get this ball through a small opening in the net.
Again, without using the hands. Teams often consisted of 12-16 players, and women were sometimes involved.
Who Invented Football
There are ancient records of football dating back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence points to Ancient Greeks playing Episkyros as well as the Chinese playing very similar games. Soccer was truly a global game even back then.
During the medieval period, soccer (also called folk football) was developing in modern Europe. Around the 9th century, the pig’s bladder was kicked between landmarks in England. During some periods of British history, the ball game was even considered a nuisance and banned.
The earliest reference to a mass participation ball game in England is by William Fitzstephen, a Canterbury monk, who in 1174 described a Shrovetide gathering of apprentices and schoolboys in London for ‘the famous game of ball.’
The city of Carlisle may have been the site of the world’s first international football match. After abdicating and fleeing to England in June 1568, Queen Mary of Scots watched a football match somewhere between Carlisle Castle and the Scottish border. 
The game is likely to have been played at Kingmoor, an area of common land.
This was played between English, Scots, French, and possibly other nationalities. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Carlisle Castle. The game in question was recorded by her guardian, Sir Francis Knollys, who wrote: “About 20 of her retinue played at football very strongly, nimbly and skilfully, without any foul play offered.”
An inflated leather ball, made of pig’s bladder and found in the rafters of Stirling Castle (Mary’s residence) in the 1970s, was made of leather. There is a claim that it is “the oldest football in the world.” In the years since, archaeologists at Winchester have dug up leather balls (roughly the size of modern tennis balls) that are approximately 500 years older.
Now, let’s fast forward to the game of soccer that we currently watch on our television screens at home or at the local bar. We can thank the British for this lively game of soccer that millions of people are involved in today.
Which Country Invented Modern Soccer
The modern history of soccer began in the 19th century when the game first became popular at universities and schools. Back then, the ball game was somewhat a mixture of rugby football and soccer and was simply referred to as ‘football.’ It was unruly and chaotic due to the variation in rules that different teams adhered to.
A notable difference was that some schools allowed players to carry the ball while others primarily used their feet.
One group of students quickly became fed-up with the madness that ensued whenever they tried to play an inter-school match, what they decided to do next changed the history of soccer forever. They looked to formalize a set of rules.
In 1848, eight undergraduates from four public schools came together in Cambridge to draft up rules that everyone could follow. They agreed on a set of eleven rules that they then nailed to a tree in Parker’s Piece (an ample green space where teams would meet to play). These eleven laws famously became known as the Cambridge Rules.
The Cambridge Rules
One significant rule that has carried over into the modern game today was that carrying the ball was mostly disallowed. This rule is likely what started the divergence of ‘soccer’ and ‘rugby’ which eventually became separate sports.
University of Oxford students are said to be responsible for coining the word ‘soccer.’ They would use the slang word ‘rugger’ to describe the form of football that was mostly used with the hands, which eventually became known as rugby. ‘Assoccer’ was slang for association football which they used to define the game mostly used with the feet.
This term was eventually shortened to just soccer, which is now commonly used, especially in the United States.
A few years later, in 1855, in the town of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, the makings of the first amateur soccer club were quietly brewing in the background.
Bred from a love of sports and a willingness to stay fit over the winter months, Sheffield Cricket Club members started to organize friendly ‘kickabouts.’
These informal ball games at Sheffield would often pit ‘married players against singles’ or ‘professionals versus the rest.’ Sheffield FC officially became recognized as an official club in 1857, when organizers William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick decided to add a new level of formality to their casual ‘kickabouts.’
Sheffield FC is now recognized as the oldest soccer club in the world.
The Sheffield Rules
A year later, in 1858, the club created a set of rules that distinguished the Sheffield laws of the game and acted as a guide for other teams to follow. These were the first set of rules established by a football club, and they quickly spread.
The Sheffield rules soon became the most popular form of the modern game in North England.
Five years later, in 1863, the first-ever Football Association was formed in London. Once again, there was an attempt to unify the laws of the game.
This newly enacted Football Association (the FA today) used the Cambridge Rules as the basis for their set of rules – much to Sheffield’s frustration.
This new set of laws became known as the ‘London Rules.’ They struggled to gain a foothold over the more popular Sheffield game that teams continued to play nationwide for many years.
The Sheffield game was initially more ruthless than the more civil, London-based game. It allowed pushing and charging, but hacking and tripping were forbidden. In 1867, the first tournament – the Youdan Cup – was played under Sheffield Rules.
Between 1863 and 1877, the Football Association (FA) and Sheffield laws co-existed. However, London-based teams willingly adopted the FA rules while Northern teams played under Sheffield’s rules.
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