When was Soccer Invented?: Origins of the Beautiful Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

When was soccer invented? Soccer, also known as the beautiful game, is the most popular modern sport in the world. Can you imagine a world without soccer? No players, no fans, no goals, no World cups.

It may be hard to imagine a world without the game, however there was a point in time where soccer did not exist. Fortunately, we are no longer in that time period and there have actually been a lot of variations of the game played throughout history.

Although ancient civilizations had their own version of soccer, the official game was not established, association football was not established until the 19th century. In this blog I will explain everything that you need to know about when soccer was invented.

When was Soccer Invented

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The Beautiful Game’s Origins

Thanks to archeological discoveries we now know that many ancient civilizations played ball games as pastime activities like we do today, although some took it a bit more seriously than others. Also, throughout history not only has the gameplay itself changed but the equipment has too, especially the most important one, the soccer ball.

Ancient China

In ancient China, a form of kickball called “Tsu’ Chu” was played more than 5,000 years ago by the Han dynasty. This game involved players using their feet (and sometimes other body parts) to move a leather ball filled with feathers through goalposts made from bamboo sticks. Many historians believe Tsu’ Chu may have been an early inspiration for what would eventually become association football, or soccer.

Ancient Japan

Another ancient ball game similar to soccer is Japan’s “Kemari,” which dates back over 1,400 years. In this non-competitive sport, participants formed a circle and used their feet and legs to keep a small deerskin ball in the air without letting it touch the ground. Kemari was pretty much just juggling the soccer ball in a group. Although Kemari did not involve goals or scoring goals as modern soccer does, its emphasis on skillful footwork makes it an essential part of soccer history.

Ancient Greece

Greece also had its own version of a team sport played with a ball- Episkyros – where two teams competed against each other trying to throw or kick a ball over a designated line. The Romans later adapted this game into “Harpastum,” played with a smaller, harder ball and involved more physical contact between players.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages towns played a popular game called Mob Football, which was seen as a competition between two neighboring towns. The team’s were able to have as many players or few players as they wanted and the main goal was to carry an inflated pigskin ball to the end of the opposing team’s town. The only rules that were emphasized was that murder and killing were not allowed, but besides that anything else goes.

Ancient Mexico and Central America

Ancient Mexico and Central America were home to various indigenous cultures, each with their own unique ball games that add to the rich history of soccer. Among these, the Aztec ball game, known as “tlachtli” or “ollamalitzli,” stands out as one of the most important ones

Tlachtli was not merely a sport but a ritual with deep religious and cultural significance. Played in large stone courts within ceremonial centers, it involved teams of players using their hips to propel a solid rubber ball through stone hoops mounted on the court’s walls. The objective varied, but the game often symbolized cosmic forces and celestial motion, reflecting the Aztec’s worldview.

Participants wore protective gear due to the game’s physicality, and tlachtli could sometimes be associated with human sacrifice, particularly for important games. The crazy part about these sacrifices was that sometimes the winner was sacrificed and other times the loser.

When was Soccer Invented Image by Austrian National Library

England’s Role in Modernizing Soccer

As we know it today, soccer owes much of its development to England. Although ancient ball games with similarities to soccer existed in various cultures around the world, it was England that established the official rules.

The Cambridge Rules

In 1848, students at Cambridge University created a set of regulations known as the Cambridge Rules. These rules laid the groundwork for standardized regulations in soccer, providing consistency and structure to the game.

The Football Association (FA)

The Football Association (FA) was founded in England in 1863 with the aim of unifying the various codes of football used throughout Britain. By establishing one comprehensive set of guidelines, the FA laid the foundation for association football, or soccer, to emerge as the dominant form of the sport.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB)

Established in 1886, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) was formed to oversee the laws of the game and ensure consistency in soccer regulations globally. Composed of representatives from England and other nations, IFAB played a pivotal role in shaping the modern rules and regulations of soccer. .

The First International Soccer Game

On November 30th,1872, Scotland faced off against England in what is recognized by FIFA as soccer’s first professional game at the international level This historic match took place at Hamilton Crescent cricket ground in the Partick area of Glasgow city, which ended as a goalless draw. After this game, soccer continued its rapid growth following this historic event; more countries began forming their associations and national teams, leading to the creation of FIFA itself.

FIFA

FIFA, the official governing body of world soccer, was created on May 21st,1904 and today, FIFA has over 200 member nations, making it the most popular sport globally. FIFA has since assumed the role of managing international soccer tournaments, such as the FIFA World Cup.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I learn more about the game?

To learn more about soccer the most important thing is to join a team and play the game as much as possible. If possible, analyze high level games as much as you can and your own games as well by recording them with a soccer camera. Also read soccer books, listen to podcasts, watch soccer documentaries, as well as some movies, tv shows, and anime.

Who invented soccer?

Although there is no real answer to who invented soccer, most people believe that the Ancient Chinese were the first to play a variation of soccer, over 5,000 years ago. England was the country to establish the first rules of the game and many people consider England as the country to have officially invented soccer.

When and where did the first World Cup take place?

The first World Cup took place in 1930 in Uruguay.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the beautiful game has humble beginnings and there have been many ancient games that may have inspired the modern game that soccer players, youth all the way up to the professional, coaches, and fans, know and love today.

In this blog, I covered everything that you need to know about who invented soccer from exploring the earliest forms of the game to how important England was in creating the official rules and international matches.

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