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29. 4. 2012.

Short soccer history

The roots of soccer can be traced back to the Han Dynasty in second century China. The game tsu chu, or “kicking a ball”, was included in military physical training. An elaborate game of tsu chu was played on the emperor’s birthday. Teams would attempt to kick a feather-filled ball through a small goal that consisted of a net attached to bamboo poles. The stakes were high. Legends say the winners were treated to a feast while the losers were sometimes beheaded.
Kemari was played in Japan dating back to the seventh century. In this circular game, players had to pass the ball to each other without letting it touch the ground, similar in some ways to what we call hacky sack or footbag.
In 16th century Italy, a game called calico was played on holidays. Teams would gather in the city squares of Florence and Venice and compete in this game that involved kicking as well as handling the ball. Each team had 27 players who wore ornate costumes.

England The Birthplace of Soccer

Even though games that involved kicking a ball were played in other parts of the world, England is without doubt the birthplace of the game now known as soccer, or Association Football. (Trivia note: the word “soccer” is actually a shortened form of the word “association.”) You can even visit the actual birthplace of modern soccer—the Freemasons Tavern in London. It was here in 1863 that the Football Association was founded, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Ancient England had its own form of a soccer-type game. The earliest English games may have been played to celebrate military victories. Some historians say that after a victory against the Danes, the English played a soccer-type game with the head of defeated prince. The real roots of soccer came not from the battlefields but from the streets of England and Scotland. Games of mob football were played in village streets and squares. Unlimited numbers of men from opposing villages would attempt to kick an inflated pig’s bladder. According to an early handbook, any means short of murder and manslaughter could be used to get the ball across the goal.
In spite of such “rules” these violent street games often did involve the injury and even death of both players and spectators. This led to the game being banned by the King. Even when it was illegal to play, people couldn’t help themselves; they just had to kick the ball. Despite laws and edicts, soccer-type games continued to be played for the next 500 years, particularly by working class men who played on Sundays, the one day each week they took off from the fields and factories.

A School Boy’s Game

In the 1820s, modern soccer began to take shape in the public schools of England. Schoolmasters recognized that the game promoted health and strength and could be “civilized.” So schools including Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Westminster began playing recreational games with a “ball” that was flat on both top and bottom. Each school developed their own rules and defined their own field of play. Before these schools began to organize the sport, matches were played in open spaces without boundaries.

Laying Down the Law

Graduates of English schools wanted to continue to play ball-and-goal games so they began to form clubs. In 1862 some of the grads drew up the Cambridge Code—10 rules that allowed the ball to be handled only to stop it in the air and place it back on the ground.

On October 26, 1863, representatives from 11 schools and clubs met at the Freemasons Tavern to hash out official rules of the game. One club, Blackheath, eventually withdrew from the debates after the group voted not to allow running with the ball or hacking an opponent. When that decision was made, the break between the games that would become soccer and rugby became official. The remaining 10 representatives formed the Football Association and published the original 14 Laws of the Game in December 1863.
Remarkably, these first laws contained no mention of fouls, penalties or referees. Despite its violent heritage, soccer at this time was considered a gentlemen’s sport. No gentlemen, it was thought, would attempt to foul to gain an advantage. Early matches were officiated by two umpires, one provided by each team. In the 1880s, a referee was added to keep time and settle disputes. When a disagreement arose, umpires would refer to this official—hence the name “referee.” By 1891, the referee had been moved on to the field of play and the umpires had become linesmen. Today, linesmen are called assistant referees.
Today, there are 17 Laws of the Game that determine everything from the size of the pitch or playing field, to proper attire for soccer players (see sidebar), to number of players per side and the length of the game. The Laws of the Game are now preserved and modified when necessary by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Soccer Becomes a Worldwide Sport

Within eight years, the Football Association had 50 member clubs and inter-school inter-club matches were being played before enthusiastic spectators. The first Football Association League Cup was awarded in 1872.

In that same year, the first international match was played between Scotland and England. Some 2000 spectators watched the match that ended in a 0-0 tie. The Scots used a passing attack that was new to the English players who were used to muscling the ball up the field in what resembled a scrum. By the 1880s, teams of professional soccer players were forming in parts of Europe.
English colonists took soccer to the corners of the globe. Soon teams throughout Europe, in Africa, South America and New Zealand were playing the game.
In 1904, football associations from seven countries met in Paris and founded the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The original members of FIFA were Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Germany joined the federation immediately. Surprisingly, England originally snubbed FIFA, feeling that soccer was an English game and should be governed by the English Football Association. England joined FIFA in 1906 and an Englishman, Daniel Burley Woolfall became FIFA President. Today, FIFA has 205 member associations.

Determining the Best in the World

Nearly as soon as it was formed, FIFA began discussing holding a world championship tournament. The first World Cup competition came about in 1930 in Uruguay. Uruguay had won the Olympic soccer gold medals in both 1924 and 1928. There were no qualifying tournaments for the first World Cup, but only 13 countries decided to send teams on the long trip to South America. Uruguay won the first World Cup with a 4-2 defeat of Argentina in the final round.
To date, 17 World Cup trophies have been awarded in men’s competition and four in women’s. See the chart listing the World Cup Champions.

A League of Their Own

Frescos from third century China show women playing a soccer-type game. By the 17th century, women were playing organized soccer matches. In the town of Inveresk Scotland, records show that the married women beat the unmarried women in a football game.
Development of the women’s game was hampered somewhat by their attire. Women were originally required to wear bloomers and to keep their hair under caps. Fortunately this changed during the World War I. During the War, women’s teams attracted large crowds as they played exhibition games, sometimes against men.
The first women’s international match was played in 1920. An English team composed primarily of members of the famous Dick Kerrs Ladies beat Scotland 22-0. In 1921, an English women’s soccer match attracted 53,000 spectators. Unfortunately, the Football Association decided that women’s soccer was “distasteful” and banned women’s games from association pitches. Women formed their own association and began playing on rugby fields. The Football Associations ban against women was not lifted until 1971.

A Tribute to the Fans

No discussion of soccer is complete without mentioning the fans. It is the fans who have made soccer the most popular spectator sport in the world. Soccer fans are some of the loudest, most enthusiastic of any sports fans. The world’s largest stadiums are dedicated to the sport of soccer. (Trivia alert: The largest stadium is Maracana in Brazil with an unofficial capacity of more than 200,000.) More than 28 billion viewers in 213 countries watched television coverage of the 2002 World Cup competition.
Throughout the history of the game, great players and great teams have made their mark. Some of the great names in men’s soccer history are listed here.
Soccer is a very basic game with simple rules that has captured the world. Today, more than 300 million people play this truly worldwide sport.

“Soccer - history, methodics, tactics”, Veljko Aleksic&Aleksandar Jankovic

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