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Ancient History of Association Football

The history of Association football, or soccer, traces back to over 3000 years. It began in Mesoamerican cultures, which today compromises the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. 

In the first-ever recorded ballgame, teams kicked and threw a ball made of rock, representing the sun, through hoops. This early ballgame resembled basketball more than it did soccer.

First Soccer-like Game

However, the earliest sport that resembles modern-day soccer is an ancient Chinese game from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. and 220 A.D.) called Ts’u-chü (roughly translated to "kicking the ball"). Ts’u-chü or Cuju was a game most likely used as a military training exercise. 

The goal of Cuju was to kick a small leather ball into a net that hung 30 feet from the ground. Boundaries of the game were set within a square area. This Soccer-like sports games quickly started appearing throughout the world: Pahsahëman, Marn Grook in Australia, and Kemari in Japan are some of the early adopters. 

To this day, Kemari is still played in many parts of the world. People have enjoyed the beautiful game throughout history in different iterations.

English Football

Modern-day soccer, however, would not start to develop until the Middle Ages.

Entire towns in England would kick a pig’s bladder to and from different landmarks. Teams comprised massive groups that acted more like mobs.

The sport did not have standardized rules, and as such, many games were violent and caused property damage and casualties. These games got banned due to persistent violence. Luckily, the sport would become legal again in 1605.

Eton College Rules

Due to a lack of standardization, schools had different rulesets for the game. With two schools being most prominent, Rugby and Eton, Rugby college allowed the use of hands to play the game, while Eton College would establish a set of rules that had the game played exclusively with feet.

In 1848, standardized rules were set in Cambridge. Schools, Colleges, and Universities adopted and recognized the new Cambridge Rules.

In 1863, 11 London schools and clubs went to Freemason’s Tavern and formed the first Football association, where the size and weight of the ball standardized.

Also, a decision to disallow the use of hands in the game created the official divide between rugby and soccer.

19th-century soccer wasn’t known for its defensive accolades. And a look at the oldest formations in the game shows how present a desire for attacking football was at the time.

Teams were more eager than ever in the game’s history to get the ball in the opposition’s half and score goals. Notably, the first international soccer match displayed how important it was for teams to play the game in the opposition’s territory.

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