The history of soccer

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Man playing soccer
Today, soccer (or football as it is called in England) is the world's favorite sport, with millions of fans pledging their alliance to the sport and its players
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Discover the fascinating world of soccer.

Ancient History

The history of soccer spans centuries. Soccer was popular across the globe long before it adopted its current form. The Chinese played 'tsu chu' where animal skin balls were dribbled through gaps in a net stretched between two poles and one of the earliest known soccer play has been traced as far back as 1004 B.C. in Japan.

Both the Romans and the Greeks played a version that entailed carrying and kicking a ball. The Greek game (episkyros) and the Roman game (harpastum) were more lively versions and spectators took great interest in the matches.

Pre-medieval folklore states that entire villages would engage in kicking a skull through to a nearby villages' town square. In return, the opposing village would try to kick the skull back to the first villages' square. In following years, balls made of pigs' bladders replaced the skulls and eventually, a leather covering became the norm.

Despite the enthusiasm of the public, not everyone loved the game. During King Edwards' reign in England, (1307-1327) he passed laws to prohibit the playing of soccer. Judged as indecent and vulgar, the ruler believed the sport prevented players from engaging in more useful endeavors such as archery.

King Henry IV and Henry VIII also passed laws against the playing of soccer however by 1681 the sport had earned official sanction and by the 1800s had become so popular that large groups of men roamed through towns and villages in search of a match.

Early Nineteenth Century

In 1836, Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber and in 1855, the first vulcanized rubber soccer balls came onto the scene, revolutionizing the game. Although the sport was widely enjoyed, soccer flourished the most in England. Called football, the game grew in 1863 when the first football association was established in England.

In October of the same year, representatives from 11 football clubs across the county met to discuss and establish set rules for the sport and, unable to come to a decision the football and rugby clubs split for good. This meeting was an important episode in the history of soccer as it served to set up the game in an organized way. Prior to this meeting, rules varied from region to region resulting in confusing, hard to control matches. Thanks to the representatives, the sport became cohesive and understandable which served to increase its popularity.

Eight years after the meeting the football association had 50 member clubs and the first football competition, called the FA cup in the world was started. In 1972 the rules were revised and one rule required that playing balls be regulated in size and shape and that rule remains in today's FIFA laws.

After England, the Scots were the next to adopt the sport with Wales and Ireland following soon after. Many other countries soon joined the fervor and the love for soccer spread across Europe and South America. In 1912, 20 national associations were already affiliated with the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) and by 1925, that number had grown to 39. In 1930, the year of the first world cup the number was 46 and 16 years later, the number grew to 52. In 1950, this number reached 68. Today, FIFA has 204 member associations across the globe.

History of Women's Soccer

Although many would believe that women's soccer is a recent development, women have actually been playing the sport for centuries. In fact, women in England began playing when the men did but thanks to social and political reluctance, women's soccer did not grow in popularity until more recently.

In 1863, the English Soccer Association standardized a set of rules, which prohibited violence making it easier for women to get involved in the sport.

Today, women play the game as well as the men and their matches draw huge crowds. The women's United States Team is hugely popular and won the world title twice making names such as Mia Hamm famous.

Contemporary History

Soccer as we know it today was formed in the 1960s and the international soccer community grew steadily. Today, soccer (or football as it is called in England) is the world's favorite sport, with millions of fans pledging their alliance to the sport and its players. In fact, the past world cup had 33 million viewers. Although Americans were slow to warm to soccer, the history of soccer continues as the sport grows in popularity.

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