Although it may be impossible to accurately state when and where the game of soccer originated, history has shown us glimpses of a game similar to our present day version being played for over 3000 years.
Around the 2nd or 3rd Century BC, it was documented that the Chinese military during the Han Dynasty played a game involving kicking a ball into a small net.
A game similar to soccer was played by the ancient Greeks and Romans but their game could include up to 27 players on a side compared to the modern day game of 11 players to a side.
Soccer became one of the most popular sports of the masses due to its popularity as a war game. A game of “football” which the British called it, was played in the east of England during the 8th Century where the head of a defeated Danish Prince was used as the ball.
During medieval times, villages and towns were pitted against each other in game battles that could take all day. There were no structured rules to abide by and kicking, biting, gouging and punching turned the game into a virtual battle of survival. These matches became so violent that the English authorities made many attempts to have soccer banned.
King Edward III from England passed laws in 1331 to abolish the game and Queen Elizabeth I had a law passed that provided a one week jail sentence for anyone caught playing soccer.
Despite these efforts, the game of soccer became so popular in England over the next few centuries that it evolved as the most popular sport of its time.
At this point, the only shortcoming of the sport was its lack of rules or standards. In 1815, Eton College, a famous English school, established a set of rules to be implemented by other schools, colleges and universities.
A standardized version of these rules were later adopted in 1848 by most of England’s colleges and universities that were known as the Cambridge Rules.
Unfortunately, at this point, there were still two different sets of rules being used. Some colleges favored the Rugby Rules which allowed carrying the ball with your hands, tripping and kicking to the shins. which were contrary to the Cambridge Rules.
In 1863, The Football Association was created by eleven English soccer clubs and schools to establish a single set of rules to be enforced when they played against each other.
The supporters of the Rugby School rules objected to the changes and the two groups split apart. The Football Association later changed the rules in 1869 where they forbade the use of hands, except by the goalie, which led us to the game of soccer as we know it today.
The English still called it a game of “football” because the ball was played primarily with the feet but in the late 18th Century, the word, “soccer”, was first used by a student of Oxford University by the name of Charles Wreford Brown. The students at Oxford were known for using slang where they added “er” to the end of words that they intentionally shortened. The game of Rugby was called “rugger”. Brown shortened the word “association” and added “er” and the term “soccer” was born.
Since the 19th Century the game has evolved to where it is today. It is the World’s Game that is played by more people than any other sport and is universally recognized as the most popular game in sports history.
The World Cup which is held every four years to crown a World Champion draws millions of spectators to the 32 games played and is watched by billions of fans from around the globe thanks to modern day satellite television technology.
The popularity of soccer continues to grow as organized youth soccer programs are getting a young fan base involved at an early age which will fuel its growth for years to come.