Tracing Back to the Roots: The Era When Soccer was Invented

Soccer in the Victorian Era: The Formalization of the Modern Game

During the early 19th century, football was a largely unorganized activity, mainly played by school children. The sport was chaotic, with no set rules or regulations. However, the turn of the Victorian era saw this disorganized activity evolve into a competitive, formalized game that we know and love today, dubbed soccer.

The Victorian era, ruling from 1839 to 1901, was an era of remarkable ingenuity and progress. Amid this time, many modern sports saw their genesis, including soccer. The Industrial Revolution was paving the way for the British working class to have more leisure time, which was generally filled with sports, including football.

Football had been played in a rudimentary form in England since before the Medieval times. However, it was not until the Victorian era that the game began to resemble the sport we watch and play today. In the mid-19th century, the football community was divided over the rules of the game. Some wanted to emphasize carrying the ball in hands, which later formed the sport called rugby. Those who preferred kicking formalized soccer.

In 1863, the Football Association (FA) was established in England to provide unified rules for the game. The inaugural meeting held at the Freemasons' Tavern in London witnessed the distinction between the two sports, with soccer disallowing the usage of hands. The FA’s standardized rules included the size of the ball, field dimensions, number of players and the prohibition of carrying the ball. This saw the birth of the 'dribbling game,' now referred to as association football or soccer.

The introduction of these rules led to a more strategic and less chaotic game. It allowed the sport to develop with the introduction of set positions, guidelines for goalkeepers, and penalties for fouls. It also led to the formation of officials, known as referees, to oversee matches and enforce these rules.

The formalization brought new sophistication to the sport. Soccer clubs sprouted in schools, universities, factories, and churches across the country. Matches evolved from casual gatherings in the local park into organized league competitions. The first of these, the Football League, was established in 1888 by a dozen northern and midland soccer clubs. By the turn of the century, the Football League had expanded to two divisions of 18 clubs.

The Victorian era's influence extended beyond the rules.

Delving into the Ancient Origins of Soccer

The mesmerizing tale of soccer, known to most of the world as football, begins in the ancient times. Though the exact origins of this global phenomenon are ambiguous due variations in the interpretation of historical evidence, there is no understating its deep roots in the annals of human history.

The first hint of a game resembling soccer harks back to the dynastic periods of ancient China, around the 2nd and 3rd century BC. The Chinese military game, 'Tsu Chu', consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. Unlike modern soccer, the use of hands was not restricted. The historical significance of this game is that the first soccer ball was metaphorically and quite literally 'born'.

Fast forward to ancient Greece, especially in Athens, where a form of soccer called Episkyros was common. The Greeks played this less-structured game on a rectangular field, and the ball – made of inflated pig's bladder – was passed from player to player by hand. The aim was for a player to throw the ball over the opponent team's line while preventing the enemy from doing so at the same time. The game was often rough, with many players injured during its play.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, a game known as 'Harpastum' was popular, bearing more resemblance to rugby than modern-day soccer. This game involved teams working to keep possession of a smaller ball over a geographically significant area, rather than focusing on scoring goals.

Moving things along to the middle ages, entire towns in England would participate in a primitive form of soccer, often resulting in violent and chaotic matches. Notably, the English developed a game of 'mob football' between neighbouring towns and villages where the objective was to move an inflated pig's bladder from the centre of town to a specific location, often the opponent's village church. The matches would cause significant disruption, leading King Edward III to impose a ban on the sport in 1365.

The birth of soccer, as we know it today, began in England during the 1800s. The establishment of the Football Association in England marked one of the most significant points in soccer history. It standardized the rules and made soccer a 'gentleman's game'.