The Evolution of Football (Part-1) : The invention of the beautiful game


Ask any five year old kid who is Lionel Messi and they will say that he is their favorite footballer, while some of them might even counter you by saying he is not just a footballer, but the second best player on the planet at the moment.

The length of a pitch must be between 100 yards (90m) and 130 yards (120m) and the width not less than 50 yards (45m) and not more than 100 yards (90m) in a football ground, as it happens to be the most popular ball game with the number of participants and spectators. The rules are so simple that it can be played anywhere, anyplace, anytime with just a ball to ensemble.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) estimated that at the turn of the 21st century there were approximately 250 million football players and over 1.3 billion people “interested” in football which is increasing drastically every single day.

In this chapter, we will look into how the game emerged in its earlier days.

We know that soccer’s (another name for football) origin was in Ancient Egypt. There are still artefacts from the ancient world dating way back to 2,500 B.C that make us believe that the game’s basic principles survived through the years and went on to be played during the medieval times. They usually made balls out of linens, and some were even made out of animal intestines or skins to improve the bouncing ability of the ball.

Around two thousand years later in around 500 B.C the Chinese played a popular game named ‘Cuju‘. It was mainly played by military members of the Chinese Army, then introduced by Duke Xiang of Song to keep them fit. It was a move to attack the Chu’s as the conflict happened to be the reason why more military members were recruited. They stuffed feathers inside a leather ball which they had to kick inside a rectangular playing field. To score a goal, they had to shoot it through a piece of cloth hung between two poles.

At nearly the same time, in Ancient Rome they used to play a game something similar. The biggest rule was that you didn’t have any rules, apart from the fact that you had to get the ball to the opposition team’s goal. The game was played with a minimum of 25 players in each side which could often lead to chaos down the middle as many more people joined them during the course of the game.

Aside from football played on the field, there was another one played on the streets. Roman orator Cicero noted that it was mostly played by young boys. These boys would run around the town, kicking the ball on the ground.He wrote about an incident where the carelessness of players led to death. It happened because they accidentally kicked the ball towards a barber who was shaving a customer. The barber lost control of his blade and cut the customer’s throat.

The modern day game was not played before 1850 when a few cricket playing clubs in England got bored during the monsoon times and started to play soccer as a game to contemplate the time that was getting wasted. So certain clubs formed a corresponding football club to play during the rain and tough winter times. A few years later, rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association(FA) in England was formed on 26th October, 1863 – becoming the sport’s first governing body.

While the sport was widely played by youngsters all over England, it was banned in schools because of its fierceness. Lack of rules governing player conduct often resulted in injuries and chaos. The formation of FA finally nailed some rules as to how the game would be played and increased the popularity of football and helped in spreading it throughout the world.

Photo by National Museum of Denmark