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The history of football (soccer)

valid until: 28 Nov 2023date published: 28 Nov 2022

Football (or soccer as the game is called in some parts of the world) has a long history. Football in its current form arose in England in the middle of the 19th century. But alternative versions of the game existed much earlier and are a part of the football history.

Early history and the precursors of football
The first known examples of a team game involving a ball, which was made out of a rock, occurred in old Mesoamerican cultures for over 3,000 years ago. It was by the Aztecs called Tchatali, although various versions of the game were spread over large regions. In some ritual occasions, the ball would symbolize the sun and the captain of the losing team would be sacrificed to the gods. A unique feature of the Mesoamerican ball game versions was a bouncing ball made of rubber – no other early culture had access to rubber.

The first known ball game which also involved kicking took place In China in the 3rd and 2nd century BC under the name cuju. Cuju was played with a round ball (stitched leather with fur or feathers inside) on an area of a square. A modified form of this game later spread to Japan and was by the name of kemari practiced under ceremonial forms.

Perhaps even older cuju was Marn Gook, played by Aboriginal Australians and according to white emigrants in the 1800s a ball game primarily involving kicking. The ball was made by encased leaves or roots. The rules are mostly unknown, but as with many other early versions of the game keeping the ball in the air was probably a chief feature.

Other variety of ball games had been known from Ancient Greece. The ball was made by shreds of leather filled with hair (the first documents of balls filled with air are from the 7th century). Ball games had, however, a low status and was not included at the Panhellenic Games. In the Ancient Rome, games with balls were not included in the entertainment on the big arenas (amphitheaters), but occurred in exercises in the military by the name of Harpastum. It was the Roman culture that would bring football to the British island (Britannica). It is, however, uncertain in which degree the British people were influenced by this variety and in which degree they had developed their own variants.
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The history of football (soccer)