It remains one of the world’s most loved sports, and one which crosses international boundaries, cultures and all demographics.
Football – or ’soccer’, as it might be known in your area – also has a fascinating history about which you may not be aware.
Why look into the history of football? Well, there’s one simple reason: you’ll almost definitely find it interesting. Whether you’re starting your own team, or simply want to know more about the sport you love, you’ll find the answers in the following potted history of football.
So, grab your favourite beverage, put your team’s shirt on and prepare to learn about more about the beautiful game than you thought possible.
Who invented football?
Beyond the age old debate about what the correct size of a football pitch is, one other element of the game is hotly contested more than any other.
Who invented it?
The original rules for the game were actually laid down by the Football Association in England way back in 1863. Since then, it has evolved considerably, not least with the introduction of technology such as VAR and goal line cameras.
But before that crucial moment in 1863, there were other forms of the game in existence. They were played on the lawns of public schools, but there wasn’t any such thing as a standardised set of rules from which to be governed.
The result? Chaos!
There were the Cambridge rules and the Sheffield rules, but it’s anyone’s guess which were most comprehensively followed – if at all.
This is partly the reason no single person can claim to have invented the beautiful game. However, there is one person we can point the finger at when it comes to creating the Football Association in England: Ebenezer Morley.
Often referred to as the ‘father’ of the association, he was also the founder of Barnes Football Club and, in 1863, he was the guy who brought 12 clubs together to codify the game.
So, we’ll give Ebenezer this one.
Which country invented football?
This is another hotly contested topic, and, although you’ll note we’ve only referred to England above, there are plenty of suggestions that football actually originated elsewhere on the planet.
For instance, there are traces of football which go back as far as 2,000 years ago. They can be found in Ancient Greece, China, Rome and even parts of Central America.
Despite this, most people agree that it was indeed England which transformed those disparate games and rules into the game we know today. The English Football Association essentially uniformed the sport and introduced some of the most important, defining rules into the game, such as the forbiddance of tripping people over or touching the ball with one’s hands.
So, while no single country can lay claim to the true origin of football, it’s safe to say that England is the country which invented football as we know it today.
Key dates in football history
As you might expect, given its incredibly long history, there are a number of really important dates in football.
The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you a great idea of when the key moments took place.
– 1409: the word ‘Football’ is documented for the first time in England
– 1581: football is played for the first time in English schools
– 1848: the Cambridge Rules are established
– 1857: the Sheffield Rules come into play
– 1863: the Football Association is fully formed
– 1870: the first International football match is played
– 1871: the FA Cup is invented
– 1877: the laws of the game are properly ratified
– 1888: the Football League is formed
– 1904: FIFA is started up
– 1930: the first World Cup is held
– 1954: UEFA is formed
– 1960: the first European Championships is held, back then known as the ‘European Nations Cup’
– 1992: the Premier League is formed
– 2012: goal line technology is used for the first time
– 2016: VAR technology is introduced at international friendlies
As noted, this isn’t a complete list, but it does represent the most important marks in history for football. You may even remember some of them yourself!
Football history facts
A bit like those key dates in history, there are so many football facts that you may not be aware of.
Let’s dig in!
– Many people believe football was actually invented in China in around 476 B.C.
– One of the largest football tournaments ever took place in 1999 between over 5,000 teams and more than 35,000 players
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored a goal in every minute of the game
– Asmir Begovic scored both the fastest and longest goal in football history in 2013
– Dino Zoff is the oldest player to have won the World Cup at 40
– The first football game is believed to have been played in 1869 between McGill University and Yale
– The first live television coverage of a football match took place in 1937
– Footballs have been the same shape and size for 120 years (28 inches in circumference)
– The first Football Club to be established was Sheffield Football Club in 1857
– Goalies didn’t wear different coloured shirts to the rest of the team until 1913
There’s some gems in there, right?
The above list represents some brilliant material for pub chat or those times when you need to pull a fascinating fact out of the bag for your mates. They may even arise during a quiz, so keep them in your mind.
What happens next in the history of football?
Good question. As you can see from our history of football above, the game has endured an incredibly vibrant, transformative life so far.
That makes the future of football a pretty exciting one. With rules established, there are only likely to be minor changes in that regard, but the introduction of the latest technology is probably going to be the most important thing to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Expect changes to the way we view the game, too. Live football has changed just as considerably over the last few years, and new TV technology and streaming options means we can expect plenty of evolution to the game that we all know and love.