Documented evidence of an activity resembling football can be found in the Chinese military manual Zhan Guo Ce compiled between the 3rd century and 1st century BC. It describes a practice known as cuju (è¹´éž , literally "kick ball"), which originally involved kicking a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth which was fixed on bamboo canes and hung about 9 m above ground. During the Han Dynasty (206 BCâ€“220 AD), cuju games were standardized and rules were established. Variations of this game later spread to Japan and Korea, known as kemari and chuk-guk respectively. By the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618â€“907), the feather-stuffed ball was replaced by an air-filled ball and cuju games had become professionalized, with many players making a living playing cuju. Also, two different types of goal posts emerged: One was made by setting up posts with a net between them and the other consisted of just one goal post in the middle of the field.
A revived version of Kemari being played at the Tanzan Shrine.
The Japanese version of cuju is kemari (è¹´éž ), and was developed during the Asuka period. This is known to have been played within the Japanese imperial court in Kyoto from about 600 AD. In kemari several people stand in a circle and kick a ball to each other, trying not to let the ball drop to the ground (much like keepie uppie). The game appears to have died out sometime before the mid-19th century. It was revived in 1903 and is now played at a number of festivals.
An illustration from the 1850s of Australian Aboriginal hunter gatherers. Children in the background are playing a football game, possibly Marn Grook.
There are a number of references to traditional, ancient, or prehistoric ball games, played by indigenous peoples in many different parts of the world. For example, in 1586, men from a ship commanded by an English explorer named John Davis, went ashore to play a form of football with Inuit (Eskimo) people in Greenland. There are later accounts of an Inuit game played on ice, called Aqsaqtuk. Each match began with two teams facing each other in parallel lines, before attempting to kick the ball through each other team's line and then at a goal. In 1610, William Strachey of the Jamestown settlement, Virginia recorded a game played by Native Americans, called Pahsaheman. In Victoria, Australia, indigenous people played a game called Marn Grook ("ball game"). An 1878 book by Robert Brough-Smyth, The Aborigines of Victoria, quotes a man called Richard Thomas as saying, in about 1841, that he had witnessed Aboriginal people playing the game: "Mr Thomas describes how the foremost player will drop kick a ball made from the skin of a possum and how other players leap into the air in order to catch it." It is widely believed that Marn Grook had an influence on the development of Australian rules football (see below).
The Maori in New Zealand played a game called Ki-o-rahi consisting of teams of seven players play on a circular field divided into zones, and score points by touching the 'pou' (boundary markers) and hitting a central 'tupu' or target.
Games played in Mesoamerica with rubber balls by indigenous peoples are also well-documented as existing since before this time, but these had more similarities to basketball or volleyball, and since their influence on modern football games is minimal, most do not class them as football. Northeastern American Indians, especially the Iroquois Confederation, played a game which made use of net racquets to throw and catch a small ball; however, although a ball-goal foot game, lacrosse (as its modern descendant is called) is likewise not usually classed as a form of "football."
These games and others may well go far back into antiquity and may have felt the growing pains of the elected officials also influenced which later affected football games. However, the main sources of modern football codes appear to lie in western Europe, especially England.
Medieval and early modern Europe
Further information: Medieval football
The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of annual Shrovetide football matches throughout Europe, particularly in England. The game played in England at this time may have arrived with the Roman occupation, but the only pre-Norman reference is to boys playing "ball games" in the ninth century Historia Brittonum. Reports of a game played in Brittany, Normandy, and Picardy, known as La Soule or Choule, suggest that some of these football games could have arrived in England as a result of the Norman Conquest.
An illustration of so-called "mob football".
These forms of football, sometimes referred to as "mob football", would be played between neighbouring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people, struggling to move an item such as an inflated pig's bladder, to particular geographical points, such as their opponents' church. Shrovetide games have survived into the modern era in a number of English towns (see below).
The first detailed description of what was almost certainly football in England was given by William FitzStephen in about 1174â€“1183. He described the activities of London youths during the annual festival of Shrove Tuesday:
After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.
Most of the very early references to the game speak simply of "ball play" or "playing at ball". This reinforces the idea that the games played at the time did not necessarily involve a ball being kicked.
An early reference to a ball game that was probably football comes from 1280 at Ulgham, Northumberland, England: "Henry... while playing at ball.. ran against David". The first definite reference to a football game comes in 1321 at Shouldham, Norfolk, England: "[d]uring the game at ball as he kicked the ball, a lay friend of his... ran against him and wounded himself".
In 1314, Nicholas de Farndone, Lord Mayor of the City of London issued a decree banning football in the French used by the English upper classes at the time. A translation reads: "[f]orasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls [rageries de grosses pelotes de pee] in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future." This is the earliest reference to football.
In 1363, King Edward III of England issued a proclamation banning "...handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games", showing that "football" â€” whatever its exact form in this case â€” was being differentiated from games involving other parts of the body, such as handball.
King Henry IV of England also presented one of the earliest documented uses of the English word "football", in 1409, when he issued a proclamation forbidding the levying of money for "foteball".
There is also an account in Latin from the end of the 15th century of football being played at Cawston, Nottinghamshire. This is the first description of a "kicking game" and the first description of dribbling: "[t]he game at which they had met for common recreation is called by some the foot-ball game. It is one in which young men, in country sport, propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air but by striking it and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet... kicking in opposite directions" The chronicler gives the earliest reference to a football pitch, stating that: "[t]he boundaries have been marked and the game had started.
Other firsts in the mediÃ¦val and early modern eras:
- "a football", in the sense of a ball rather than a game, was first mentioned in 1486. This reference is in Dame Juliana Berners' Book of St Albans. It states: "a certain rounde instrument to play with ...it is an instrument for the foote and then it is calde in Latyn 'pila pedalis', a fotebal."
- a pair of football boots was ordered by King Henry VIII of England in 1526.
- women playing a form of football was in 1580, when Sir Philip Sidney described it in one of his poems: "[a] tyme there is for all, my mother often sayes, When she, with skirts tuckt very hy, with girles at football playes."
- the first references to goals are in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1584 and 1602 respectively, John Norden and Richard Carew referred to "goals" in Cornish hurling. Carew described how goals were made: "they pitch two bushes in the ground, some eight or ten foote asunder; and directly against them, ten or twelue [twelve] score off, other twayne in like distance, which they terme their Goales". He is also the first to describe goalkeepers and passing of the ball between players.
- the first direct reference to scoring a goal is in John Day's play The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green (performed circa 1600; published 1659): "I'll play a gole at camp-ball" (an extremely violent variety of football, which was popular in East Anglia). Similarly in a poem in 1613, Michael Drayton refers to "when the Ball to throw, And drive it to the Gole, in squadrons forth they goe".
An illustration of the Calcio Fiorentino field and starting positions, from a 1688 book by Pietro di Lorenzo Bini.
Main article: Calcio Fiorentino
In the 16th century, the city of Florence celebrated the period between Epiphany and Lent by playing a game which today is known as "calcio storico" ("historic kickball") in the Piazza della Novere or the Piazza Santa Croce. The young aristocrats of the city would dress up in fine silk costumes and embroil themselves in a violent form of football. For example, calcio players could punch, shoulder charge, and kick opponents. Blows below the belt were allowed. The game is said to have originated as a military training exercise. In 1580, Count Giovanni de' Bardi di Vernio wrote Discorso sopra 'l giuoco del Calcio Fiorentino. This is sometimes said to be the earliest code of rules for any football game. The game was not played after January 1739 (until it was revived in May 1930).
Official disapproval and attempts to ban football
Main article: Attempts to ban football games
Numerous attempts have been made to ban football games, particularly the most rowdy and disruptive forms. This was especially the case in England and in other parts of Europe, during the Middle Ages and early modern period. Between 1324 and 1667, football was banned in England alone by more than 30 royal and local laws. The need to repeatedly proclaim such laws demonstrated the difficulty in enforcing bans on popular games. King Edward II was so troubled by the unruliness of football in London that on April 13, 1314 he issued a proclamation banning it: "Forasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils may arise which God forbid; we command and forbid, on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future."
The reasons for the ban by Edward III, on June 12, 1349, were explicit: football and other recreations distracted the populace from practicing archery, which was necessary for war. In 1424, the Parliament of Scotland passed a Football Act that stated it is statut and the king forbiddis that na man play at the fut ball under the payne of iiij d - in other words, playing football was made illegal, and punishable by a fine of four pence.
By 1608, the local authorities in Manchester were complaining that: "With the ffotebale...[there] hath beene greate disorder in our towne of Manchester we are told, and glasse windowes broken yearlye and spoyled by a companie of lewd and disordered persons ..." That same year, the word "football" was used disapprovingly by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare's play King Lear contains the line: "Nor tripped neither, you base football player" (Act I, Scene 4). Shakespeare also mentions the game in A Comedy of Errors (Act II, Scene 1):
Am I so round with you as you with me,
That like a football you do spurn me thus?
You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither:
If I last in this service, you must case me in leather.
"Spurn" literally means to kick away, thus implying that the game involved kicking a ball between players.
King James I of England's Book of Sports (1618) however, instructs Christians to play at football every Sunday afternoon after worship. The book's aim appears to be an attempt to offset the strictness of the Puritans regarding the keeping of the Sabbath.
Establishment of modern codes
English public schools
Main article: English public school football games
While football continued to be played in various forms throughout Britain, its public schools (known as private schools in other countries) are widely credited with four key achievements in the creation of modern football codes. First of all, the evidence suggests that they were important in taking football away from its "mob" form and turning it into an organised team sport. Second, many early descriptions of football and references to it were recorded by people who had studied at these schools. Third, it was teachers, students and former students from these schools who first codified football games, to enable matches to be played between schools. Finally, it was at English public schools that the division between "kicking" and "running" (or "carrying") games first became clear.
The earliest evidence that games resembling football were being played at English public schools â€” mainly attended by boys from the upper, upper-middle and professional classes â€” comes from the Vulgaria by William Horman in 1519. Horman had been headmaster at Eton and Winchester colleges and his Latin textbook includes a translation exercise with the phrase "We wyll playe with a ball full of wynde".
Richard Mulcaster, a student at Eton College in the early 16th century and later headmaster at other English schools, has been described as "the greatest sixteenth Century advocate of football". Among his contributions are the earliest evidence of organised team football. Mulcaster's writings refer to teams ("sides" and "parties"), positions ("standings"), a referee ("judge over the parties") and a coach "(trayning maister)". Mulcaster's "footeball" had evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football:
[s]ome smaller number with such overlooking, sorted into sides and standings, not meeting with their bodies so boisterously to trie their strength: nor shouldring or shuffing one an other so barbarously ... may use footeball for as much good to the body, by the chiefe use of the legges.
In 1633, David Wedderburn, a teacher from Aberdeen, mentioned elements of modern football games in a short Latin textbook called "Vocabula." Wedderburn refers to what has been translated into modern English as "keeping goal" and makes an allusion to passing the ball ("strike it here"). There is a reference to "get hold of the ball", suggesting that some handling was allowed. It is clear that the tackles allowed included the charging and holding of opposing players ("drive that man back").
A more detailed description of football is given in Francis Willughby's Book of Games, written in about 1660. Willughby, who had studied at Sutton Coldfield School, is the first to describe goals and a distinct playing field: "a close that has a gate at either end. The gates are called Goals." His book includes a diagram illustrating a football field. He also mentions tactics ("leaving some of their best players to guard the goal"); scoring ("they that can strike the ball through their opponents' goal first win") and the way teams were selected ("the players being equally divided according to their strength and nimbleness"). He is the first to describe a "law" of football: "they must not strike [an opponent's leg] higher than the ball".
English public schools were the first to codify football games (in particular Eton (1815) and Aldenham (1825)) They also devised the first offside rules, during the late 18th century. In the earliest manifestations of these rules, players were "off their side" if they simply stood between the ball and the goal which was their objective. Players were not allowed to pass the ball forward, either by foot or by hand. They could only dribble with their feet, or advance the ball in a scrum or similar formation. However, offside laws began to diverge and develop differently at the each school, as is shown by the rules of football from Winchester, Rugby, Harrow and Cheltenham, during in the period of 1810â€“1850.
By the early 19th century, (before the Factory Act of 1850), most working class people in Britain had to work six days a week, often for over twelve hours a day. They had neither the time nor the inclination to engage in sport for recreation and, at the time, many children were part of the labour force. Feast day football played on the streets was in decline. Public school boys, who enjoyed some freedom from work, became the inventors of organised football games with formal codes of rules.
Football was adopted by a number of public schools as a way of encouraging competitiveness and keeping youths fit. Each school drafted its own rules, which varied widely between different schools and were changed over time with each new intake of pupils. Two schools of thought developed regarding rules. Some schools favoured a game in which the ball could be carried (as at Rugby, Marlborough and Cheltenham), while others preferred a game where kicking and dribbling the ball was promoted (as at Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Charterhouse). The division into these two camps was partly the result of circumstances in which the games were played. For example, Charterhouse and Westminster at the time had restricted playing areas; the boys were confined to playing their ball game within the school cloisters, making it difficult for them to adopt rough and tumble running games.
William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School, is said to have "with a fine disregard for the rules of football, as played in his time [emphasis added], first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus creating the distinctive feature of the rugby game." in 1823. This act is usually said to be the beginning of Rugby football, but there is little evidence that it occurred, and most sports historians believe the story to be apocryphal. The act of 'taking the ball in is arms' is often misinterpreted as 'picking the ball up' as it is widely believed that Webb Ellis' 'crime' was handling the ball, as in modern soccer, however handling the ball as the time was often permitted and in some cases compulsory, the rule for which Webb Ellis showed disregard was running forward with it as the rules of his time only allowed a player to retreat backwards or kick forwards.
The boom in rail transport in Britain during the 1840s meant that people were able to travel further and with less inconvenience than they ever had before. Inter-school sporting competitions became possible. However, it was difficult for schools to play each other at football, as each school played by its own rules. The solution to this problem was usually that the match be divided into two halves, one half played by the rules of the host "home" school, and the other half by the visiting "away" school.
Apart from Rugby football, the public school codes have barely been played beyond the confines of each school's playing fields. However, many of them are still played at the schools which created them (see Surviving UK school games below).
Main article: Oldest football clubs
Sports clubs dedicated to playing football began in the eighteenth century, for example London's Gymnastic Society which was founded in the mid-eighteenth century and ceased playing matches in 1796. The first documented club to bear the title "football club" is one in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the period 1824-41. The club forbade tripping but allowed pushing and holding and the picking up of the ball.
Two clubs which claim to be the world's oldest existing football club, in the sense of a club which is not part of a school or university, are strongholds of rugby football: the Barnes Club, said to have been founded in 1839, and Guy's Hospital Football Club, in 1843. Neither date nor the variety of football played is well-documented, but such claims nevertheless allude to the popularity of rugby before other modern codes emerged.
In 1845, three boys at Rugby school were tasked with codifying the rules then being used at the school. These were the first set of written rules (or code) for any form of football. This further assisted the spread of the Rugby game. For instance, Dublin University Football Clubâ€”founded at Trinity College, Dublin in 1854 and later famous as a bastion of the Rugby School gameâ€”is the world's oldest documented football club in any code.
Main article: Oldest football competitions
One of the longest running football fixture is the Cordner-Eggleston Cup, contested between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, Melbourne every year since 1858. It is believed by many to also be the first match of Australian rules football, although it was played under experimental rules in its first year. The first football trophy tournament was the Caledonian Challenge Cup, donated by the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne, played in 1861 under the Melbourne Rules. The oldest football league is a rugby football competition, the United Hospitals Challenge Cup (1874), while the oldest rugby trophy is the Yorkshire Cup, contested since 1878. The South Australian Football Association (30 April 1877) is the oldest surviving Australian rules football competition. The oldest surviving soccer trophy is the Youdan Cup (1867) and the oldest national soccer competition is the English FA Cup (1871). The Football League (1888) is recognised as the longest running Association Football league. The first ever international football match took place between sides representing England and Scotland on March 5 1870 at the Oval under the authority of the FA. The first Rugby international took place in 1871.
Main article: football (ball)
Richard Lindon (seen in 1880) is believed to have invented the first footballs with rubber bladders.
In Europe, early footballs were made out of animal bladders, more specifically pig's bladders, which were inflated. Later leather coverings were introduced to allow the ball to keep their shape. However, in 1851, Richard Lindon and William Gilbert, both shoemakers from the town of Rugby (near the school), exhibited both round and oval-shaped balls at the Great Exhibition in London. Richard Lindon's wife is said to have died of lung disease caused by blowing up pig's bladders. Lindon also won medals for the invention of the "Rubber inflatable Bladder" and the "Brass Hand Pump".
In 1855, the U.S. inventor Charles Goodyear â€” who had patented vulcanized rubber â€” exhibited a spherical football, with an exterior of vulcanized rubber panels, at the Paris Exhibition Universelle. The ball was to prove popular in early forms of football in the U.S.A.
Modern ball passing tactics
Main article: Passing (association football)
"Scientific" football is first recorded in 1839 from Lancashire and in the modern game in Rugby football from 1862 and from Sheffield FC as early as 1865 . The first side to play a passing combination game was the Royal Engineers AFC in 1869/70 By 1869 they were "work[ing] well together", "backing up" and benefiting from "cooperation". By 1870 the Engineers were passing the ball: "Lieut. Creswell, who having brought the ball up the side then kicked it into the middle to another of his side, who kicked it through the posts the minute before time was called" Passing was a regular feature of their style By early 1872 the Engineers were the first football team renowned for "play[ing] beautifully together" A double pass is first reported from Derby school against Nottingham Forest in March 1872, the first of which is irrefutably a short pass: "Mr Absey dribbling the ball half the length of the field delivered it to Wallis, who kicking it cleverly in front of the goal, sent it to the captain who drove it at once between the Nottingham posts" The first side to have perfected the modern formation was Cambridge University AFC and introduced the 2-3-5 "pyramid" formation.
Main article: Cambridge rules
In 1848, at Cambridge University, Mr. H. de Winton and Mr. J.C. Thring, who were both formerly at Shrewsbury School, called a meeting at Trinity College, Cambridge with 12 other representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury. An eight-hour meeting produced what amounted to the first set of modern rules, known as the Cambridge rules. No copy of these rules now exists, but a revised version from circa 1856 is held in the library of Shrewsbury School. The rules clearly favour the kicking game. Handling was only allowed for a player to take a clean catch entitling them to a free kick and there was a primitive offside rule, disallowing players from "loitering" around the opponents' goal. The Cambridge rules were not widely adopted outside English public schools and universities (but it was arguably the most significant influence on the Football Association committee members responsible for formulating the rules of