Football history

Welcome to a website about football history including competitions, clubs and players.

The history of football (soccer)

Football (or soccer as the game is called in some parts of the world) has a long history. Football in its current form arose in England in the middle of the 19th Century. But alternative versions of the game existed much earlier and are a part of the football history.

In China under the 3rd and 2nd century BC a game named Cuju was played. Other earlier variants of the game had been known from the Ancient Greece. At this stage the ball was made by shreds of leather filled with hair. The first documents of balls filed with air are from the 7th century.

The most admitted story tell that the game was developed in England under the 12th century. In this century games that reminded of football were played on meadows and roads in England. Besides from kicks, the game involved also punches of the ball with the fist. This early form of football was also much more ruff and more violent than the modern way of playing. This would also be one of the reasons for the game to be forbidden in several centuries, but the football-like games would appear again in the streets of London in the 17th Century.

It took, however, long time until the features of today’s football had been taken into practice. For a long time it was no clear distinction between football and rugby. There were also many variations concerning the size of the ball, the number of players and the length of a match.

The game was often played in schools and two of the predominant schools were Rugby and Eton. At Rugby the rules included the possibility to take up the ball with the hands and the game we today know as rugby has its origin from here. At Eton on the other hand the ball was played exclusively with the feet and can therefore be seen as a close predecessor to the modern football. The game in Rugby was called “the running game” while the game in Eton was called “the dribbling game”.

Proper rules for the game were decided at a meeting in Cambridge 1848. Another important event in the history of football come about in 1863 then the first Football association was formed in England. This also led to a standardization of the size and weight of the ball.

As with many things in history, women was for a long time excluded from participating in games. I was not before the late 19th Century that also women started to play football.

The first competitions

Historic football game in picturesOther milestones were now to follow. Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) was first run in 1871. The next year was the first match between two national teams played for the first time. The match was between England and Scotland, ended 0-0 and was followed by 4000 people at Hamilton Crescent (the picture showing illustrations from this occasion).

The first international tournament occurred in 1883 and included four national teams: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The football was in a long time a British concern and it gradually spread to other European countries. The first game that took place outside Europe occurred in Argentina 1867, but it was foreign British workers who were involved and not Argentinean citizens.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded 1904 and a foundation act was signed by representatives from France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Domestic leagues occurred in many countries, the first was the English Football League was established in 1888. The leagues would by time expand by more divisions, which were based on team performance.

The first football clubs

Football clubs have existed since the 15th century, but unorganized and without official status. It is therefore hard to decide which the first football club was. Some historians suggest that it was the Foot-Ball Club formed 1824 in Edinburgh. Earlier clubs were often formed by former school students and the first of this kind was formed in Sheffield in 1855. The oldest among professional football clubs is the English club Notts County that was formed in 1862 and still exists today.

In 1985 professional football was legalized and three years later the Football League was established. In the first season, 12 clubs were joining the league, but soon more clubs become interested and the competition would consequently expand into more divisions.

Black players

As in many other sports the white male was predominant for a long time. In football black players was present relatively early and in comparison with, for example, tennis, football has traditionally been known as a sport with a mix of black and white players.

In Brittain Andrew Watson is known to be the first black player and he played in the Scottish club Queen’s Park in the 1880s.

A game of passion

audienceFew other sports show examples of passion to that extent as football. The arenas are flocked by shearing people; and in front of television even more are watching carefully and sometimes with great enthusiasm.

Already in the late 19th century Goodison Park was built in England in purpose of football games. In the 1894 FA Cup final between Notts County and Bolton Wanderers was attended by 37,000 people. A milestone in football stadiums is the construction of Maracanã Stadium. In the year of 1950 the imposing stadium in Rio de Janeiro was ready for almost 200,000 people. No other sports have been built stadiums of that capacity.

The great modern competitions

No other sport event besides the Olympic Games can today measure itself with the FIFA World Cup. The first edition of the FIFA World Cup was played 1930 in Uruguay and has since when returned every fourth year (with two exceptions due to the Second World War). In 1991 the first World Cup for women was held in China and had since then also returned every fourth year.

Today the biggest global tournament for clubs is the Champions League (played since 1992), the former European Cup (1960-1992).

Globalization of the biggest sport in the world

In the late 19th Century only a few national football teams existed, England and Scotland had the first active teams which playing games against each others in the 1870s. Today there are 211 national associations included in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing body of the sport. Another proof of the globalization could be seen in the increase of nations qualifying for the World Cup: from 32 in 1934 to over 200 in 2014.

The world regions have been divided into six confederations: Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Union des associations européennes de football (UEFA), The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL).

The name of the game: football or soccer?

In most part of the world, football is used as the name for the "chess of the green pitch", the biggest sport in the world. In the United States and Canada, however, soccer is used instead as a distinction from American football. A more formal name sometimes used is association football, but in popular speech, it is either football or soccer.

The National Encyclopedia
Image sources:
Andrea Scoto - ItiIllustration da Francesco. Bertelli. Padua
William Ralston (1848-1911) - Scanned from The Official History of The Football Association by Byron Butler - Queen Ane Press
Documentary film Alegria do Povo (1963)