Essay About Soccer History Book

History of Soccer

Ancient History

Soccer is indisputably the most popular team sport in the world. While no one can say with any degree of certainty when or where the game of soccer began, mostly because the game of soccer evolved from a wide variety of games over a period spanning more than 2,000 years -- evidence abounds that some versions of the game were played in ancient China, Japan, Greece, Rome, Australia and the Americas.

Indeed, some evidence suggests that that the Chinese version of soccer, called Tsu Chu or Cuju, was played in China's Shandong province as far back as 3000 to 2500 BCE.[i] The game was also played during the Tsin Dynasty (255 - 206 BCE) but gained much greater popularity during the period of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE). The object of the game was to kick a leather ball, roughly the size of volleyball -- through a one foot wide opening and into a net attached to 30 feet high bamboo poles.  The rules of the game allowed the players to use their feet, chest, back, and shoulders to play the ball but the players were prohibited from using their hands.

Around the same time, the Japanese played a game Kemari or kick-ball.[ii]Kemari is considered to be derived from and be a variant of the Chinese game of Cuju.[iii] The fist written references about the Japanese version of soccer, called Kemari or kick-ball, date back to 644 CE.[iv] In this game, which is still played today, the players pass the ball to each other trying not to let the ball touch the ground.

Recent archeological discoveries in Mexico indicate that the Mayans played a version of a kicking game called Pok-A-Tok or Gomacari as early as 3000 BCE.[v] The object of the game was to shoot a leather ball through a vertically mounted ring at the end of a forty/fifty yards long field. The players were allowed to use their feet, legs, hips or elbows. Variations of this game were developed and played by Aztecs and Zapotecs. The Aztec's game is perhaps most well-known because the players of the losing team were put to death at the sacrificial altar.

Some writers also contend that the Greek game of Episkyros (also referred to by others as Phaininda) and its later Roman version called Harpastum -- developed in Greece as early as 2000 B.C. -- are early versions of soccer.[vi] There is considerable evidence, however, that the use of hands was not only allowed but rather necessary in Episkyros and Harpastum games. Indeed, Aporrhaxis' account of Episkyros describes the rules of the game as follows: "This is played by teams of equal numbers standing opposite one another. They mark out the line between them with stone chips; this is the skuros on which the ball is placed. They then mark out two other lines, one behind each team. The team which secures the possession of the ball throws it over their opponents, who then try to get hold of the ball and throw it back, until one side pushes the other over the line behind them. The game might be called a Ball Battle."

The ancient descriptions of these games present greater resemblance to games of hand-ball or dodge-ball than soccer where the use of hands is largely prohibited. Therefore their place on the soccer game's genealogy tree is rather questionable.[vii]

There are also accounts that Aboriginal Australians played a kicking game, called Marn Gook, for thousands of years. The ball was made of opossum-skin, and [was] punted out by some man of mark.[viii] Apparently, the object of the game was to keep the ball off the ground and, since foot skills earned larger plaudits, [they] became the focus of the game.[ix]

No single culture or civilization can be credited with the invention of soccer. What is clear, however, is that many ancient civilizations played kicking-ball games that, in one way or another, resembled and were precursors of soccer.

Middle Ages

The development of soccer continued in Europe in the Middle Ages. One popular form of the game played in the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon cultures, referred to in the literature as Mob Games, involved entire villages or towns. The teams had unlimited number of players and kicked the ball towards specific landmarks. These games were large scale and often violent and pitted against each other entire villages and towns.[x] Indeed, because the games were so violent, there were numerous attempts to ban the game. For example, Nicholas de Farndone, the Mayor of London, banned the game on behalf of English King Edward II in 1314. In his decree, de Farndone explained that the game was banned "[f]orasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future."[xi] There were other attempts by the English kings to ban the game. Thus the edicts banning the game were issued by Henry V, Edward IV, Henry VII, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Scottish Kings also prohibited playing the game. For example, on May 26, 1424, the parliament of James I decreed that na man play at the futeball.[xii] Other prohibitions were made by James II in 1457. All of these efforts to ban the game were in vein and the game continued to be played. Ultimately, the game's legal status was restored in 1681.[xiii]

The Medieval Italians had their own early version of soccer called Calcio or Giuoco del Calcio Fiorentino.[xiv] The game was played by teams of twenty-seven players, using both feet and hands. The goals were scored by passing the ball over a designated spot on the perimeter of the field.[xv] In the Medieval France, a large scale and violent game known as La Choule or La Soule was played. The game was played with a leather covered ball that was stuffed with hemp or wool.[xvi] The object of the game was to pass a ball to the opposing team's goal which could have been a tree, a wall or a rivulet.[xvii] As in the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon cultures, hundreds of men often took part in the game.  The games were so violent that apparently more than one French king banned them.[xviii]

Modern History

Modern soccer originated in the 19th Century England. There were several attempts to modernize and standardize the rules of the game by a number of schools in England in 1800s. For example, common rules were produced at Cambridge in 1838, 1846, 1848, and 1856. However, as one writer pointed out, the frequency with which the new rules had to be constructed suggest[ed] that none of them really caught on.[xix] Finally, in October 1863, representatives from several schools, including Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Marlborough, Shrewsbury and Westminster, formed a committee to once again attempt to devise uniform set of rules governing the game.[xx] These rules, which became to be known as the Cambridge Code, proved to have lasting consequences as they appear to have influenced the rules drafted during the inaugural meetings of the Football Association. The Cambridge Code, Laws 13 and 14, specifically provided that the ball, when in play, may be stopped by any part of the body, but not be held or hit by the hands, arms or shoulders. All charging is fair, but holding, pushing with the hands, tripping up and shinning are forbidden.[xxi] (Emphasis added)

However, it is almost universally accepted that the October 26, 1863 meeting of thirteen representatives of ten English and Scottish teams in London marks the birth-date of the modern game of soccer. On that day the representatives of the teams agreed to devise a set of uniform rules that would govern the game.[xxii]  However, over the next few meetings, internal disputes arose over whether the rules should allow hacking (kicking below the knees) and running with the ball.  During the fourth meeting, which took place on November 24, 1863, the representatives considered the Cambridge Code and the majority took the view that those laws embraced the true principles of the game with the greatest simplicity. [xxiii] However, the negotiations over the final rules continued. On December 1, 1863, the dispute over hacking and carrying was officially settled in favor of banning those activities from the game. On December 8, 1863, one club, Blackheath, decided to withdraw from the association because it could not agree with the association's decision to ban hacking and carrying. The split between Soccer and Rugby thus became official. The remaining ten representatives established the Football Association and published the original 14 Laws of the Game in December 1863. The Football Association's Laws 9 and 10 stated that no player shall carry the ball and neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, respectively.[xxiv] The modern game of soccer was born.

One of the most critical developments involving the game of soccer was the establishment of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on June 2, 1886. IFAB was originally comprised of two representatives from football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was established to unify and control the laws of the game. IFAB thus acts as the guardian of the laws of the game.

The popularity of the game grew outside of the English borders as well. In 1904, soccer associations from seven countries -- Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland met in Paris and founded Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Initially, the Football Association refused to join FIFA but ultimately did so in 1906. In 1913, FIFA became a full member of IFAB and received two votes, the same number of votes as each of the other four UK associations. In 1958, however, IFAB rules were changed to grant FIFA four votes and each of the four original associations received one vote. Thus, FIFA was granted the same voting rights as the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish associations combined. Once FIFA was granted voting rights that equaled those of the four original associations combined, the governing structures of modern soccer were completed.


[i] Don Risolo, Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats, University of Nebraska Press (Nov. 1, 2010); Jamie Orejan, Football/Soccer: History and Tactics, McFarland (Oct 8, 2011).  However, these assertions are disputed by David Goldblatt as “an attempt to give historical foundation to mythology, relying on legendary epics written just before the emergence of the great Han dynasty in the second century BCE.”  David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, A Global History of Soccer, Penguin (Jan 2, 2008).

[ii] Jamie Orejan, Football/Soccer: History and Tactics, McFarland (Oct 8, 2011).

[iii] Tom Dunmore, Historical Dictionary of Soccer, Scarecrow Press (Sep 16, 2011).

[iv] Allen Guttman, Lee Austin Thompson, Japanese Sports: A History, University of Hawaii Press (2001).

[v] Brian Wingate, Soccer, Rules, Tips, Strategy and Safety, The Rosen Publishing Group (Jun 30, 2007); Jamie Orejan, Football/Soccer: History and Tactics, McFarland (Oct 8, 2011). But Nigel B. Crowther writes that the game of Pok-A-Tok was played by the Mayans in 300 CE, 900 CE and was derived from the Olmecs' ball game that was played as early as 1800 BCE. Nigel B. Crowther, Sport in Ancient Times, Greenwood Publishing Group (2007).

[vi] Brian Wingate, Soccer, Rules, Tips, Strategy and Safety, The Rosen Publishing Group (Jun 30, 2007).

[vii] Harold Arthur Harris, Sport in Greece and Rome, Cornell University Press (1977).

[viii] Saturday Review, A New Book of Sports, R. Bentley and Son (1885).

[ix] Scott Murray, Football for Dummies, UK Edition, John Wiley & Sons (May 25, 2010).

[x] David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, Penguin (Jan 2, 2008).

[xi] Gerald Redmond, The Sporting Scotts of Nineteenth Century Canada, Farleigh Dickinson Univ Press (1982).

[xii] Gerald Redmond, The Sporting Scotts of Nineteenth Century Canada, Farleigh Dickinson Univ Press (1982).

[xiii] Brian Glanville, A Book of Soccer, Oxford University Press (1979).

[xiv] Daniel Diehel, Mark P. Donnelly, Medieval Celebrations, Stackpole Books (Apr 13, 2011).

[xv] Y. Giossos, A. Sotiropoulos, A. Souglis, G. Dafopoulou, Reconsidering on the Early Types of Football, Baltic Journal of Health and Physical Activity, (June 2011).

[xvi] William Joseph Baker, Sports in the Western World, University of Illinois Press (Jul 1, 1988).

[xvii] Y. Giossos, A. Sotiropoulos, A. Souglis, G. Dafopoulou, Reconsidering on the Early Types of Football, Baltic Journal of Health and Physical Activity, (June 2011).

[xix] Eric Dunning, Ivan Waddington, Sport Histories: Figurational studies in the Development of Modern Sport, Psychology Press (May 18, 2004).

[xx] Eric Dunning, Ivan Waddington, Sport Histories: Figurational studies in the Development of Modern Sport, Psychology Press (May 18, 2004).

[xxi] Hugh Chisholm, The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volume 10, Encyclopedia Britannica (1910).

[xxii] Clemente Angelo Lisi, A History of the World Cup, 1930-2010, Carecrow Press (Mar 30, 2011).

[xxiii] Hugh Chisholm, The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volume 10, Encyclopedia Britannica (1910).

[xxiv] Eric Dunning, Ivan Waddington, Sport Histories: Figurational studies in the Development of Modern Sport, Psychology Press (May 18, 2004).

I grew up in East London surrounded by soccer, but as soon as I saw the Chicago Bears win the Super Bowl in 1985 on TV, I became an instant Bears fan at age 5. Throughout my 20s, I had seen several live NFL games, but I never knew of tailgating. At soccer games in the U.K., fans from both teams are not even allowed to meet in nearby pubs, because of the fear of hooliganism. Hence we do not tailgate nor do we have any pre-game fun.


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


I discovered tailgating when I saw the Bears play in Arizona on at Monday night in 2006. With the Bears looking beat, I actually left late in the fourth quarter and missed one of the most dramatic comebacks in Bears history. I wound up watching it on TV, like I always had back home, but this time I was in a car park. I looked around and was confused. I saw lots of people doing the same, watching the game on their TV sets, the stadium standing behind us. How bizarre, I thought to myself.

I was so inspired by the trip to Arizona that I wanted to experience the tailgate for everyNFL team. I left my job, sold my apartment in London and told my girlfriend Steph that I planned a 50,000 mile, 17-week road trip. She wasn't too happy, but she stood by me. I saw 40 "American" football games, including the Bears' win at Indianapolis and the two home Bears' wins that year against the Saints and the Packers. Tailgaters welcomed me to their parties — sometimes like I had come home from war. I even met Mike Ditka.

Earlier this year, I published "Tailgate To Heaven: A British NFL Fan Tackles America," and the Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association invited me to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement weekend so that I could be inducted into their wonderful group. I decided to make another road trip out of it, this time a book tour with a stop in every NFL city.

Starting in August, I hit the road, with a car full of books and Steph — by now my fiancee (No, I did not propose on a Jumbotron). We called the trip a "pre-moon." I signed books at sports bars and tailgate parties. This way, I could meet more NFL fans and see a handful of games and tailgates.

We knew tailgaters were friendly, but were random people in a sports bar going to be just as friendly? Yes. Did our accents help? Certainly. We did get some odd looks sometimes for signing books in bars. People questioned why we were missing the Olympics in our home town. But after hearing that I am a British NFL fan who went to all those games in 2008 and that the book tour was yet another football road trip, people became very friendly and interested in our story. Like the tailgaters in 2008, they wanted to supply us with beer and high fives.

Being a Bears fan, I scheduled two Chicago signings: one in August at the Bull and Bear bar and one in September at the Irish Oak bar — plus I saw the Bears play up in Green Bay. Seeing the Bears fans come out to the signings — fans I had met in the 2008 tour at the Bears' tailgates — was great.

The signing up in Green Bay was not quite as much fun: Packer fans demanded that I sign their books with a "Go Packers!" And then their team crushed my Bears on Thursday night football.

Adam Goldstein is the author of "Tailgate to Heaven: A British NFL Fan Tackles America."

"Tailgate to Heaven"

By Adam Goldstein, Potomac, 352 pages, $29.95

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