If we trace back the origins of football, we will find that it goes way back to ancient times, with various types of ball games being its early ancestors. There is evidence that it was played in many countries such as Greece, Rome, Japan, China, and even the ancient Mayans had their own version.
The modern football, however, started out as a game played in England from the 8th to the 19th century.
The Brutal Early History of Football in England
Why brutal? Well, let’s just start this part off by saying that the first game of football in England was played using the head of a Danish prince defeated in battle as a ball. Back then, there weren’t many rules and, sometimes, even whole villages played in one game. If we add the fact that biting, gouging, punching, and kicking were allowed, it becomes clear why this early football was considered barbaric.
Famous rulers like King Edward III and Queen Elizabeth I tried banning football, with the latter even jailing players, but nothing could stop its growing popularity.
Early Attempts to Bring Order Into Chaos
In 1815, a very famous English school, Eton College, created its set of rules for football. Football was very popular in many English schools at the time and two distinct sets of rules existed in those days. The first set allowed players to take up the ball and carry it in their hands, and this game was called ‘the running game’ or Rugby. The set of rules created in Eton allowed players to use only their feet, and was called ‘the dribbling game’.
In 1848, there was an attempt to make a standardized set of rules in Cambridge, but not all the questions about the rules were answered that day.
Birth of the Modern Football
In 1863, another meeting was held in London. This time, it was decided that using your hands to carry the ball wasn’t allowed, the size and weight of the ball were defined, and the sport was split into two distinct sports: association football and rugby. Another consequence of this meeting was the formation of the English Football Association.
Despite this meeting, different areas of the country still employed their own rules and, by the time the first Football Association Challenge Cup was played in 1871, it was clear that a standardized set of rules had to be created. In April 1877, the rules of football were finally agreed upon and, although most of the rules came from the association’s version of the game, there were lots of rules added from the Sheffield set of rules as well. These rules are collectively known as ‘The Laws of the Game’ and are still used by FIFA to this day.
In 1888, football turned professional, with the formation of the English Football League comprising of 12 founding clubs. These clubs were: Accrington, Aston Villa, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Derby County, Stoke, Preston North End, Everton, Notts County, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion.