Football, or Soccer as we say in America, is the world’s most popular sport. The game, which originated as a folk custom in eleventh century England, has evolved steadily and now transforms the entire globe into a battle for bragging rights every four years during the venerable World Cup Tournament.
Legend has it (and from a few football historians) that between 1018 and 1042 after the Danish invasion of England, workers discovered the head of a Danish soldier to which they began to ‘kick’ around. Thus, the game of ‘Kick the Dane’s head’ was started and later on, the ‘head’ was substituted with an inflated cow’s bladder.
Early football games resembled riots as two opposing villages would attempt to kick the ball into the center of the rival village. A picture of rugby without the use of hands comes to mind with mobs of villagers pushing the ball through. The game became more refined in the twelfth century and was played on vacant lots where rules were eventually drawn up.
As football became more and more popular, village life became disrupted which led to King Henry II banning the game from England. Instead of men sneaking out to play cards back then; they instead were sneaking out to play football! It wasn’t until 1603 that football became legal to play again as decreed by King James I.
As football grew in popularity from it roots as a custom folk game, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the game’s potential began to take form. Clubs were started mostly by local churches to provide a recreational outlet for factory workers. As audiences grew, professional clubs were formed in England, and in 1863, an association was established to standardize the rules and govern organized leagues.
Football was now an established sport and it became know as association football to differentiate the game from the other types of football played during the time, namely rugby football. The word “association” was later abbreviated using the Oxford “-er” standard so that it was referred to as “soccer”. The name “soccer” is widely used in the United States and Canada while the majority of the rest of the world call the game “football”. Some countries such as Australia, use both names when referring to the sport.
As with other forms of entertainment, the British invasion had begun and soon other countries across Europe and Asia were forming leagues and teams representative of their countries. Football or soccer is now the most widely spectated sport on the globe and the World Cup is one of the largest forms of sports entertainment and a major event for the city that hosts it!
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons