The Real Origins of Soccer: a little known history

4th March 2019
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. Learn where it originated from and how it began.

Most people think that the founders of soccer, the most popular sport in the world, were the British. However, the British just gave it the rules. The real origins of soccer come from many centuries ago, in China. Here’s a description of the beginnings of this sport.

The origins of soccer in China

Believe it or not, it’s in Asia where we find the origins of soccer, and in the 5th century C.E. Of course, that was not its name back then, they named it Ts’u Chu and it began as a military discipline.

The history of soccer comes from China

The ball they used back then was made of leather and filled with feathers. The main objective of the game was to take the ball to the other side of the field, using only the feet. Later, it evolved and they added goals, that consisted of a cloth sheet with a hole in the center hanging from a bamboo frame.

The sport gained popularity in the region because of the fun that was involved. In Japan they had a similar sport that came from Ts’u Chu, they called it Kemari. This sport was a type of ceremony, with the objective of keeping the ball in the air when passing it to other players.

Soccer played in Europe and America

Moving away from the sports played in Asia, there were other similar games in other continents. In the Mediterranean, Rome and Greece were the first to create a similar sport with a small ball. The objective of this game was to send the ball to the other side of the field.

The Mayan culture had a similar game named, pok ta pok, about 3,000 years ago. In Teotihuacan, Mexico, the indigenous people played this game. Furthermore, there is a mural there, depicting a Mayan soccer player with a ball on his foot.

Additionally, the indigenous peoples from the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon also had a similar game. Their game consisted of using the feet to kick a ball between two posts on the ground.

How did soccer make it to England?

Searching out the origins of soccer we know that the official beginnings of the sport started in England. The first recorded activity, similar to the sport we know today, was in 1170 in the British Islands.

However, it was a very violent game, and so King Edward II banned its practice in 1314. Of course, as expected, most people practiced it anyway, illegally.

King Edward II made soccer (football) illegal.

This sport was very popular during the carnivals, but there were no official rules. For example, there were no rules about how many players could be on the field at one time. Therefore, sometimes the games were made up of whole towns competing against each other. Thus, they were very violent.

Because many children were also playing this game, and exposing themselves to violence, schools started to teach it. Thereby providing a certain degree of supervision, at least. And so, the violence in the game decreased thanks to this measure.

Between the 18th and 19th century each school declared their own special rules, some allowed the use of their hands and others didn’t. Additionally, other rules stated that it had to be in an open field, while others restricted the game to be played in monasteries.

Since all of these different rules made it difficult to play the game between schools, they decided to establish a new set of rules. This new set of rules were known as the “Cambridge Rules”. Thus, with these new rules, schools could participate in interschool tournaments.

Most people don’t know that the official rules of the Football Association took the Cambridge Rules as a base in 1863. And so, it was in England that the Football Association gave the sport the rules, making it the activity we know today.