Know Your Football History

In the beginning

Think you know your football history? Think again! This sport was alive and kicking way before the English Premier League or the Italian Serie A.

Over 3000 years ago, Mesoamerican people played a team game involving a ball which was made out of a rock. The ball symbolised the sun and the captain of the losing team was be sacrificed to the gods! You can image that the games were quite exciting.


The earliest version of soccer is from China in the second century BC. It was called Tsu’ Chu. Players kicked a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net.

They had to use their feet, chests, backs and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of opponents. They were not allowed to use their hands.

The Japanese

500-600 years later the Japanese played Kemari. It wasn’t as competitive as Tsu’ Chu. Standing in a circle, the players passed the ball to each other, in a relatively small space, trying not to let it touch the ground. It is still payed and is now known as ‘Kemari Matsuri’ or the ‘Festival of Ancient Ball-Kicking’

The Greeks and Romans

Marble relief showing Harpastum.

The Greek game ‘Episkyros‘ and the Roman ‘Harpastum‘ were more lively games. Harpastum was played on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centre line. The teams had to get the ball over the opposition’s boundary lines as players passed it between themselves. The game remained popular for 700-800 years and the Romans took it to Britain. It was more like Rugby than football.

The English


Fast forward a few centuries to England in the 12th century. People played games that resembled football in meadows and streets. Players kicked and punched the ball in this rough and violent version of the game.  Teams had plenty of players and the game took place over large areas in towns. The players caused damage and sometimes death which led to football being banned for several centuries.


But the football-like games appeared again in the streets of London in the 17th Century, only to be banned again in 1835, but not before it had been established in public schools. For a long time there was no clear distinction between football and rugby. There were also many variations concerning the size of the ball, the number of players and the length of a match.

The world’s oldest football clubs were founded in England from 1857.  In the 1871–72 season, the FA Cup was founded as the world’s first organised competition. The first international football match was in November 1872 between England and Scotland. The Scottish players were so good that northern English clubs began offering them money and jobs to move south. At first, the Football Association (FA) didn’t like this and it led to a bitter dispute from 1880 to 1885, when the FA formally legitimised professionalism. The Football League was formed by twelve professional clubs in 1888 and football (or soccer) has since been based on this pattern.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.