As you probably know, soccer is the most played, watched and televised sport in the history of mankind. According to FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) there are currently 270 million people that are actively involved in the game of football. (That is about 4% of the world population) So why has this sport become such a grand interest for me and people alike? What is the history behind this widely spectated event?
Soccer which is referred as “football association” in Wikipedia is a sport that has roots dating back to the 2nd and 3rd century. The earliest form is said to have originated in China; a game called “cuju”. FIFA, the governing body of football, officially stated that China was the birthplace of its game in 2004.
In the latter decades, many other forms of the sport have been spotted in other regions of the world, such as “Harpastum” (Roman), “Kemari” (Japan), and “Knattleikr”. (Iceland) These games were of course a lot different from what modern football is all about. It was not until the 19th century that various forms of football became somewhat an organized event played mostly by prestigious public schools in England. There was much improvement in the course of the sport when Thomas Arnold (head of the ‘Rugby School’ helped to establish the first standardized rules of Rugby.
In Rugby, they allowed players to kick opponents legs below the knees (which was banned in the later years), handling the ball was also permitted. Following this development, football and rugby split on December, 1863. The modern game of football was born in England with the formation of the F.A. (Football Association) which is the governing body of football in England. Ebenezer Cobb Morley was a founding member of the Football Association in which he stressed out the importance of a governing body for football. After the F.A. was established he laid down the “Laws of football” that implemented the rules the game is played today. On January 9th, 1864, the first exhibition football game was played at the Battersea Park. In only eight years, the F.A. had 50 member clubs and grew rapidly allowing a competition to emerge in 1972. The F.A. Cup is the first football competition and in England regarded as the most prestigious one. The ‘Wanderers’ were the first team to win the cup, beating the ‘Royal Engineers’ 1-0.
Football popularized slowly in other countries with the help of British influence. It was not until 1889, other countries (Netherlands and Denmark) would embrace this wonderful game. Football started growing rapidly with the following countries; New Zealand (1891), Argentina (1893), Chile, Switzerland, Belgium (1895), Italy (1898), Germany, Uruguay (1900), and Hungary (1901) adopting football associations of their own.
In 1904, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) was formed in Paris to regulate international fixtures and there were seven founding members (France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). The first international football competition was introduced at the 1908 London Summer Olympics with Great Britain winning gold, Denmark silver and the Netherlands bronze. The emergence of World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) brought the growing sport to a halt resuming years after the war. By 1950, FIFA had 51 member countries. Before the creation of the World Cup (the most prestigious football competition), FIFA organized a football competition within the Summer Olympics. In 1930, FIFA would manage their own tournament in Uruguay; the host nation to be the first football team to have won the cup that would be the most spectated than any other professional tournament today.
Football today, is a much growing sport with 208 national teams recognized by FIFA, in addition there are thousands of club teams competing with each other in various leagues and cups for global dominance. The sport has become an addiction for many people around the world, helping nations and people get together as they cheer their team away hoping one day, their team will bring home a trophy. The future of football always has room for improvement and hopefully will grow interest in the U.S. as elsewhere. “Fair-play” is the name of the game.