A Deep Dive into The Celebrated History of Soccer

Farhad Hossain
Published in
5 min readApr 8, 2022
Free Photo from Pixels.com

The history of soccer dates back millennia. It is one of the most emotional games ever invented. Consequently, it has amassed a following of more than 3.5 billion people.

Up until the 1860s, soccer and rugby were one game. However, the English separated them and created modern soccer rules.

How Was Soccer Invented?

The history of soccer began in the Hun Dynasty of China. It was called Tsu Chu (pronounced cuju), which translates to kicking the ball. Afterward, it went on a global journey and ended up in England.

Meet the First Known Soccer Ball

The Chinese were the first people to create a soccer ball similar to the one used today. They made a 35-centimeter (14-inch) ball and stuffed it with hair and feathers. This ball was gigantic compared to the modern one, but it was spherical.

They played by kicking the ball into long bamboo stakes with a net strung across them. Players were allowed to touch the ball with their feet, shoulders, backs, and chest but not hands.

The game had almost no safety rules, and people often got injured playing Tsu Chu. One tiny difference between this ancient form of soccer and modern soccer lies in the goalposts. The Chinese raised the net in a TsuChu goalpost thirty feet in the air. Shaolin soccer suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Fast-forward five hundred years and the Japanese developed a liking for the beautiful game. They adopted Tsu Chu but added some tweaks and called it Kemari.

Despite how old Kemari is, it is still present today. The game had disappeared, but the Japanese have recently revived it. When Kemari is on display, the participants are often a group of priests playing in a courtyard. Players play Kemari by forming a ring and passing the ball around without letting it fall to the ground.

Kemari requires teamwork and above-average ball control abilities.

Greek Soccer

If you think that 250 B.C. was long ago for the history of soccer, you’ll love the Greeks. There were tales of a soccer-like game in ancient Greece in 2,500 B.C. They named their version of soccer Episkyros.

Episkyros involved players dribbling the ball over the boundary mark of the opponents. They displayed substantial speed, perseverance, and dribbling prowess.

Jumping over the pond, we land in the Mesoamerica region. Mesoamerica is a region that covers modern-day Southern Mexico, Nicaragua, El-Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Northern Costa Rica. Legend has it that the residents of this region were playing soccer as early as 3,200 B.C.

The South American version of soccer has a dark side to it, though. The Mesoamerican tribes revered the sun. To them, the soccer ball represented the sun. Consequently, they sacrificed the captain of the losing team to the gods!

Soccer Comes to England.

Soccer carried on throughout the medieval era and eventually landed in England in the ninth century. The English made a rather horrid initial contribution to the history of soccer.

Their idea of soccer at the time was kicking a pig’s bladder around. This form of soccer was a nuisance rather than a source of entertainment. Therefore, some parts of Britain forbade the disgusting game.

The English were not done with soccer just yet. They reimagined the sport in the 19th century. However, they combined soccer with quite a bit of rugby. Players were allowed to hold the ball with their hands and grapple each other for possession.

The Running vs. The Dribbling Game

Two forms of soccer evolved. Players could not handle the ball in the first form, called Elton soccer. People referred to Elton Soccer as the ‘dribbling game.’ The second form of soccer where people could hold the ball was the fondly called running game.

Stakeholders had enough of this confusion and organized a meeting in Cambridge in 1848 to standardize the rules. Many meetings followed until 1863. The English created the first football association to make soccer rules.

No More Rugby in Soccer

The formation of the football association was, perhaps, the best thing to happen in the history of soccer. They began by forbidding the handling of the ball during gameplay. They also outlawed the devastating shin-kicks that were causing too many injuries. Furthermore, they set a standard size and weight for the ball.

Not all clubs were comfortable with these new rules. Twelve clubs formed the football association, and all but one agreed to the new regulations. The Blackhearth club, which preferred the violent form of the game, left and kept the rugby rules. They made rugby and soccer to separate.

Enter Soccer Clubs

Despite how far soccer had come, it was still remarkably disorganized. Small groups of players remained without official status. Therefore, clubs could not exist.

Soccer clubs started popping up in Edinburgh by 1824. School teams used to organize soccer matches between themselves before clubs came about.

The oldest soccer club is Notts County from Nottingham, England. It has existed since 1862.

The Origin of Professional Soccer

By 1871, thousands of spectators were attending soccer matches. The game had become popular enough for clubs to sell tickets to spectators. This commercialization of the game gave the clubs enough money to pay players.

Some players decided to turn soccer into their only source of income. The number of clubs grew significantly and threw their hats into the ring to fight for the Football Association Challenge Cup (the F.A. Cup).

Reasons for the Rapid Growth of Soccer

A confluence of factors helped soccer become as popular as today. Here are some of the most prominent ones.

· Pedigree: Throughout the history of soccer, the most advanced civilizations have played it. It was a game of royal standing.

· The industrial revolution enabled many people to travel to watch soccer games.

· The rapid advancement of broadcast technology allowed people to watch soccer matches from far away

· Clubs proved the commercial viability of soccer early on by selling tickets to spectators.

· The standardization of rules allowed people to concentrate on growing their clubs and individual talent.


Many civilizations have come and gone throughout the history of soccer. However, the beautiful game has persevered and matured quite nicely. Today, more than half of the world’s population are soccer fans. I don’t see soccer declining soon because the financial incentive is too alluring.