Association Football Through the Ages

17Oct08

This article looks to investigate the history and varieties of association football through the ages. Most historians would argue that the origins of modern association football would be traced back to England but there is a great deal of evidence that points to the beautiful game having an older history.

The Chinese version of the game roughly dates back to 300 BC, was originally called ‘Tsu Chu’ and involved players on a field that had to hit a leather ball stuffed with fur into a small hole. Like football, use of the hands was not permitted during the game and it was considered an honour to be a member of a team. The Emperor of the Han Dynasty, when the game was developed, was an avid player and fan. This helped to spread the popularity of this game all over China during his reign. A version of Tsu Chu is still played today. While the two games are similar, Tsu Chu appears to have had little effect on the modern version of association football.

Kemari is the Japanese version of football and is one of the most different versions of the sport, established in roughly 1004 BC. Kemari was a game of ‘keep it up’ using a ball that was stuffed with sawdust. This version involves a pitch designated by the selection of four trees, the cherry, maple, pine and willow. Many great houses in Japan would grow trees to have a permanent pitch, or field, established. It can be played with two to twelve players. China’s Tsu Chu players and Japan’s Kemari players were the first to have an ‘international’ game of their versions of football, which is dated to have occurred in roughly 50 BC.

It is thought there was a version of a type of ball game played by young Egyptian women during the age of Baqet III. On his tomb, images of this sport were depicted, although no one is certain how the game was played or whether or not it truly affected the outcome of modern association football. Recordings of this game date as far back as 2500 BC, although not much more is known asides the fact that it was played with a ball.

Perhaps the closest relative to modern football are the games that were created by the Greeks during the prime of their culture. They had numerous varieties of football style games, some of which required hands and some of which forbade hands. After the Roman conquering of Greece, the game harpastum is what modern football would be based on. This game was probably a modified version of the Greek’s ‘harpaston’, which translates roughly to handball.

In Britain during the 8th century, football was created not for recreation but as a war game. One of the stories of the original roots of the sport comes from when a Danish Prince was beheaded, and his head was used as a ball and was kicked around. Ever since this ‘legendary’ tale, villages and other communities would play a game where they would have to kick a ball to a specific goal. It was a violent game, where injury and death were common place. It was so violent, that in 1331, King Edward the III passed laws to try to stop the playing of the game. It did not work, however, and the sport continued.

Some games apparently involved hundreds upon hundreds of players. In these games, there were many deaths, some resulting in the hundreds. It wasn’t until 1815 when Eton College set up a series of rules for the game that it became less violent and more codified as a true sport. Other colleges and universities began to play under similar rules. Theses rules were eventually evaluated and judged, and the Cambridge rules were created as a result in 1848. In the Cambridge rules, shin-kicking, carrying the ball and tripping were all forbidden. Rugby rules allowed these aspects, and the two varieties of football split to form their own followings.

On October 26, 1863, London schools and sports club sent representatives to the Freemason’s Tavern, where the Football Association was formed. Rugby supporters left this association to form the Rugby Association. This is where the birth of modern association football began. In 1869, the Football Association finalized the modern game of soccer by forbidding the use of hands in the game.

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