When speaking about the history of soccer a lot of people regard England as the place that soccer was born and although this could be a true statement in a particular context, the truth is that the English were the first to organize soccer around 1863, however they did not “invent” it per say. So if 1863 is the year the sport got “baptized”, then what year was soccer invented and where?
Since soccer or soccer-likesports can be traced way back to ancient times, it’s difficult to pin-point a specific year, but historians of the phenomenon usually chop it down into 3 periods of time.
– History of soccer during ancient times
They might not have had our modern commodities, but ancient people sure knew how to have their fun. And, you guessed, kicking a “ball” around (obviously, the balls were extremely rudimentary compared to what is used today) was considered a fun activity in many areas all around the globe, most of them developing at the same time, without interaction from one another.
In history of soccer the first written statement regarding the start of soccer comes from a Chinese military manual at around 300 BC, which describes a practice called “cuju” that involved the players kicking a leather ball through a hole in a silk cloth stretched between two poles. On the other side of the globe, in the Americas, the Aztecs were playing a similar sport, although some compare it to basketball more than soccer.
The purpose of the game was to kick the ball through a small stone circle that was placed high up on the arena’s walls, hence the relation to basketball.
Now I don’t know about you, but to me it sounds a lot more difficult to place a small leather ball exactly in the middle of a stone circle that’s well high above your head with your foot, than striking a modern “high-tech” ball in an 8 yard goal.
– History of soccer during the Middle Ages
We usually think of the medieval era as a time when war was viewed as a necessity and a “job” rather than a calamity. Despite being quite a serious, “dark” period of time, somehow the medieval people managed to take some time for some sports, including soccer.
The forms of soccer played during this time were obviously incomparable to our current definition of the sport; hence they are usually classified as “mob soccer”.
While their dads were off at war, children would often grab a patched up leather ball, hit the nearby field and start a “war” on the field. The lack of rules often lead to fights and serious injuries and the sport was regarded as dangerous in many locations.
A clear example of this can be found in the London British Museum, where an engraving shows a group of men struggling to win a leather ball, with a second image showing a man with a broken arm. You do the math.
– Modern-day soccer
As mentioned above, although we don’t know when soccer was invented, we do know when it was organized as a sport under a clear set of rules. Being a popular practice in England, soccer was played chaotically and oftentimes it would lead to the same on and off-pitch battles similar to the ones occurring during medieval soccer matches. On each match, the two teams would agree on a particular set of rules, but with the lack of a referee arguments would often spark up.
In order to keep things in order, a few English clubs met in London on October 26, 1863 in order to create a set of well-defined and universal rules for the game.
The Football Association was born and although their set of rules did not apply to all clubs immediately, in a few decades, as soccer clubs switched from amateurism to professionalism, their laws and conduct restrictions became standard for everyone.
As you can see, there’s really no “right” way to answer the “When was soccer invented?” question and you’ll have your fair share of arguments at hand regardless of what period you believe was the spark that caused the wildfire that soccer is today.
And you’ll probably agree with me on this: it’s not really that important to know when soccer was invented, but rather acknowledge that we are lucky to be able to enjoy this wonderful sport at its best, as we can in modern times.