It is the world’s best and most famous sport. It’s a multibillion-dollar market that’s watched on every continent. It is a sport that can be played by almost anybody, from children kicking a ball as they struggle to work out their co-ordination to adults who make a living out of it. So what is the history of this lovely sport? When did it all start? How has it progressed over time? What role does football play in the future?
When discussing the history of football, it’s important to distinguish between the game as we know it today and any sport that involved kicking a ball with your feet. That’s because if you’re just talking about the above, you’ll have to go all the way back to the second and third centuries BC to find a connection to a foot-based game.
Tsu’ Chu was a game played by the Chinese military that involved kicking a leather ball loaded with hair and feathers through a narrow gap and into a net. The player couldn’t use his hands and had to rely on their body to fend off enemies who were attempting to distract them.
Episkyros, an ancient Greek game involving the use of the foot, and Harpastum, a Roman sport, were both common in ancient Greece. This game, which involved attempting to bring the ball across the opponent’s half of the pitch, has been famous for nearly a century. They did bring the game to the United Kingdom, but it is unlikely to have had much of an impact on contemporary football.
No, today’s game stems from a move made in 1863 to split rugby and association football. The rules of the game were formalised at the time, though there are records of football games being played in English schools as early as 1581. The first known use of the
rules of football
Since 1877, the rules of football as we know it have been relatively unchanged. However, certain items had to be included in the end, either as a clarification or to keep up with the times. The penalty kick became part of the law in 1891, and was the first such reform.
There wasn’t anything happening until 1925, when the offside rule was changed. Previously, three opponents had to be between the attacker and the target, but this was reduced to two. Thousands of people who had been patronisingly explaining the offside rule to non-football supporters were forced to look at what was going on.