The History of Soccer
(for dummies like me)

The history of soccer is an interesting topic - especially since I like soccer AND history!

I have separated soccer history into the follow categories:

Origins of Soccer

I decided it was silly to write my own version of soccer history. Why rewrite something that has already been done well before?

Here are excerpts from various websites describing the history of soccer in ancient and medieval times.


"The earliest evidence of soccer dates from about 200 in China, where a form of the game was played that emphasized the ability of players to dribble a leather ball. The Greeks and Romans also participated in a variation of soccer that permitted ball carrying.

The modern-day outgrowth of soccer is known to have started in England, and the first ball reportedly was the head of a dead Danish brigand. Although King Edward III prohibited soccer in 1365 because of its excessive violence and for military reasons playing took time away from archery practice the game had become too popular to be curtailed."


"There is documentary evidence that a game or skill building exercise, involving kicking a ball into a small net, was used by the Chinese military during the Han Dynasty - around the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC.

Earlier evidence - of a field marked out to play a ball-kicking game has been found at Kyoto, in Japan.

Both the Greeks and ancient Romans played a soccer-type game which resembled modern soccer - although in this early version, teams could consist of up to 27 players!

It is impossible to say accurately where and when soccer started - but it is reasonable to assume that some type of ball game - from which the organised sport we know today developed - has been played somewhere on the planet for over 3000 years.

In medieval times, towns and villages played against rival towns and villages - and kicking, punching, biting and gouging were allowed.

The object of the game was to move the ball to an agreed spot which had been marked out before play commenced.

Hundreds of people took part and games could last all day. So violent did these matches become that many attempts were made by the authorities to ban soccer.

In England, King Edward III passed laws in 1331 to try and suppress football. In Scotland, King James 1, in 1424, proclaimed in Parliament, "That na man play at the Fute-ball" (No man shall play football/soccer).

Good Queen Bess, Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, had a law passed which provided for soccer players to be " jailed for a week, and obliged to do penance in church."

But no law could stop the game in Britain.

It was too popular."

History of Soccer - Modern Roots


"In 1815, the famous English School, Eton College, established a set of rules which other schools, colleges and Universities began to use. Later, these were standardised and a version, known as the Cambridge Rules, was adopted by most of England's Universities and Colleges in 1848.

But now, football was divided into two separate camps. Some colleges and schools preferred to follow rules drawn up by Rugby School - rules which permitted tripping, shin-kicking and carrying the ball - all forbidden by the Cambridge rules.

On 26 October 1863, eleven London clubs and schools sent their representatives to a meeting in the Freemason's Tavern to establish a single set of fundamental rules to govern the matches played amongst them.

This meeting created The Football Association.

The supporters of the Rugby School rules walked out - and On 8 December 1863, Association Football and Rugby Football finally split.

In 1869 The Football Association included in their rules a provision which forbade any handling of the ball - so establishing the foundation on which the modern game stands."


"With the advent of a national association in England, any soccer played under its jurisdiction was called association football. As time passed the word association was abbreviated to assoc., which eventually gave way to the word soccer, the game's common name in North America."

From The History of Football

"At first soccer was played mostly in private schools and universities, but before long people of the working classes picked up the sport. The FA Cup, a tournament first organized in 1871, sparked the rapid spread of soccer in England. (The tournament, which is still played, climaxes with the annual Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in London.) An 1872 game in Glasgow, Scotland, between an English all-star team and its Scottish counterpart marked the beginning of international play. In 1885 the FA recognized the legitimacy of professional players and regular league play started in England in 1888.

Soccer's global spread began in the late 1800s, when British traders, sailors, and soldiers carried the sport all over the world. Germans, Italians, and Austrians were eager converts in Europe, while Argentines, Uruguayans, and Brazilians took quickly to the sport in South America. FIFA was formed in 1904. By 1930 professional leagues were operating in many countries, and that year FIFA organized the first World Cup in Uruguay."

United States Soccer History

There is a separate page for the history of soccer in the United States. You will find a ton of detailed information on the origins of soccer in the U.S. on this page from the early 1600's on.

History of  - The World Cup

NEW! Go to the new page on World Cup Soccer History.

QUOTE NOTE: The above quotes and sources on the history of soccer were cited as accurately as possible. If you own a quote and would like it removed from the website, drop me a line and it will be done.

› History of Soccer

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