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Saturday, 14 February 2015


Among the Ancient Greeks, there was a game in which the players tried to carry a small ball, similar to modern football, across a line defended by the other side.

There are records of soccer-like games having been played in China more than 2,000 years ago. A Chinese military manual from the 3rd century BC includes the “Tsu’ Chu”, physical education exercise of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers into a net fixed on bamboo canes.

The Romans played a game known as harpastum that spread throughout Europe and was probably the origin of modern soccer. Its aim was to drop the ball behind the opposition's base line by passing the ball to one another. The ball used was small and hard, probably about the size and solidity of a softball.

Galen, a second-century physician and philosophical writer pointed out how the various functions of the harpastum players increased stamina and contributed to their health.

 It is generally assumed that Roman soldiers brought the game to Britain. Indeed there are (unauthenticated) reports that relate that the people of Derby played football in AD 217 to celebrate a victory against those very Romans.

“Shrovetide football” with an unlimited number of players, vague rules and a propensity for causing violent injury, reputedly dates from Anglo-Saxon times.

The Normans introduced to England a primitive form of football called Soule. The Normans are said to have developed the game from the rites of the Roman saturnalia, a feast much concerned with fertility.

The first extensive description of English football goes back to the London of 1175. It is an account by William Fitzstephen of how after dinner on Shrove Tuesday of that year, all the youth of the city spent went: “to a local piece of ground and just outside the city for the famous game of ball.”

The earliest mention of the game of football in English literature belongs to the once widely popular ballad The Jew's Daughter (possibly going back to the thirteenth century). It begins with a football game, during which the ball is kicked into the Jew's home.

In 1314, King Edward II issued an edict forbidding football in London in 1314 because too many players were brawling claiming "many evils may arise which God forbid."

James I (1394-1437) banned the playing of football in Scotland in 1424 proclaiming: “The King forbids that any man play at the fute ball under the pain of jail.”  He believed the game to be too rough, declaring it was “meeter for lameing than making able the users thereof.”

The word "football" actually is of comparatively recent coinage. The first document in which it appears dates only from 1486 in England. Until then, the game was referred to as "a ball play" or "playing at ball."

In 1526 Henry VIII ordered the first known purpose made football boots.

Queen Elizabeth I "had football players jailed for a week, with follow-up church penance."

Some sort of football was played on American soil from early colonial days. To kick a ball around a paddock or a village green was a natural type of amusement taken up by the pioneer settlers.

In the first part of the nineteenth century, American schools and colleges were organizing games of football on their campuses.  The freshman and sophomore classes at Harvard competed in a type of football game on the first Monday of each school year--called Bloody Monday because the game was so rough.

Calling football “soccer” originated in Britain 200 years ago. It wasn't until the 1980s the name was phased out in the UK because it was thought to be “too American."

Early nineteenth century student football in America was so rough and wild that eventually the authorities (both at Yale and Harvard) felt compelled to ban football altogether. They were able to do so only for a short while and could not prevent its revival.

The first standard rules for soccer were drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848. These "Cambridge Rules" were drawn up by a group of representatives from different schools.

The Football Association, the oldest football association in the world, was formed when 11 football clubs meet at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London on October 26, 1863. Any club of at least a year's standing was invited to join at an annual subscription of one guinea.

The first version of the rules for the modern game was drawn up over a series of six meetings held in The Freemasons' Tavern from October till December 1863.

Original hand written 'Laws of the game' for association Football. By Adrian Roebuck,

Football became a mass movement in Britain, largely through the efforts of Public-school-educated evangelists who sought to raise the moral condition of the working class through  the sport. It spread from its aristocratic roots to the wider population via church groups and organisations such as the Boy’ Brigade. Many clubs were formed especially in the industrial north and the Midlands with around half of them starting off as church teams.

Before the introduction of the whistle in the early 1870s, football referees indicated their decisions by waving a white handkerchief.

By the 1880s crowds of 10,000 were  common. The changing nature of the game was symbolized by the defeat of Old Etonians by Blackburn Olympic in the 1883 Cup Final.

In 1885, the Football Association accepted professionalism after attempts to suppress it, thus avoiding repeating Rugby Union/Rugby League split.

The Football League, the oldest such competition in world football, was formed at a meeting on April 17, 1888 at the Royal Hotel, Manchester. The first season of the Football League began a few months later on September 8, 1888 with 12 member clubs from the Midlands and North of England: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Preston North End were the first champions.

The first goal-nets are used in 1890. Liverpool engineer John Alexander Brodie devised them after watching Everton lose because the referee couldn’t see if the ball had gone between the posts.

The penalty kick in football was introduced in 1891. It was originally proposed by William McCrum of County Armagh.  It was first awarded to Wolverhampton Wanderers in a game against Accrington Stanley. Joseph ‘Billy’ Heath took the kick and scored.

Football was on the program for the first modern Olympics in 1896 but it was cancelled when no teams entered.

Goalkeepers didn't have to wear different colored shirts from their teammates until 1913.

Soccer was illegal in the state of Mississippi until 1991.

In a 90-minute football match, the average player is in possession of the ball for 53.4 seconds

Around half a million people are treated in hospital each year in the UK for football injuries

Sources Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999. Published by Webster Publishing, 1998, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

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