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Saturday, May 23, 2009

History of Soccer

The history of Soccer or football takes it origins back over 3000 years. One cannot exactly point out as to when and where the game actually began. A lot of references agree that China is the birthplace of “kicking the ball”. Documentary evidence reveals that an organized activity resembling football transpired during the 2nd century BC in the reign of the Han Dynasty. The soldiers from the Chinese military used to play the game during their free time; kicking the ball into a small net. It is also reported that a field was set for playing the game of “ball-kicking” at Kyoto in Japan.

The resemblance of the current soccer-type game can be found in the game played by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The teams during those times consisted of up to 27 players. Britain is unarguably the place from which the modern soccer came into existence. In fact, the game caught the frenzy of the masses from the beginning of the 8th century. Football has always been termed as Soccer in Britain. Scotland and Britain together share the credit for being the co-founders of the organized sport.

Soccer is played with a lot of passion and enthusiasm in today’s age. However, in early days the game was played fiercely - almost akin to a war. Football was played in the name of honor, valor and manhood. It was used as a medium to settle scores with the enemies. It is reported that in medieval times, towns and hamlets played against rival towns and hamlets and indulged in punching, biting, kicking and cutting into the flesh of players during the course of the game. The only “goal” during those games was to move the ball to a pre-defined spot that was agreed upon before the game started. Players had to weather physical assaults and bodily harm, apart from playing the game, to reach that spot. The game was participated in by hordes of people and the game would last the entire day. Taking into account the violent dimensions of the game, there were many attempts made by authorities to ban Soccer. In 1331, King Edward III passed a law to suppress football. Scotland followed suit when King James 1, in 1424, sought to ban the game in his parliamentary speech. Queen Elizabeth 1 of England had reportedly passed a law by which the soccer players could be put in prison for a week and were thereafter ordered to observe penance in church. However, no law could stop the fervor of people toward the game. The game was too popular in Britain to be curbed.

In 1815, the renowned English school, Eton College, laid down a code of conduct regarding football for other schools and universities to follow. This set of rules came to be known as Cambridge Rules, which were diligently followed by most of the educational institutions by 1848. Football was now divided into two separate games - those who followed the Cambridge rules and those who followed the rules laid down by the Rugby school. The Rugby school allowed shoving, tripping, shin kicking and using hands while handling the ball.
On October 26th, 1863, eleven clubs in London sent their body of eminent members for a federation meeting in the Freemason’s Tavern to streamline a single set of fundamental rules that would govern the matches played amongst them. The meeting was quite eventful, as it led to the creation of The Football Association. The Rugby school did not agree with the outcome and so there was a split on December 8th, 1863, where the Rugby Football and The Football Association parted ways. The Football Association laid down strict rules in 1869, which discouraged any kind of handling of the ball. This laid down the norm of the basic rule of Soccer that is the essence of the modern game.

On January 1st, 1878, Patrick Thistle, a leading Scottish football player, traveled to England for a match to be played against Darwen. Two prosperous mill owners, JC Ashton and Nathaniel Walsh, founded the Darwen club in 1871. One of Patrick’s best players, Fergus Sutler, wrote to the Darwen club secretary and stated that he wanted to settle in Lancashire and play for the club. His friend John Love, who was the goalkeeper for England, accompanied Fergus. Both joined the Darwen team and the club began to adopt the Scottish style of football which involved playing the game in the right and smooth manner with passes and proper positioning of the players rather than playing the game roughly and haphazardly. The new set of skills helped the team immensely and that became quite evident when Darwen drew a match in the 1879 FA cup against Old Etonians, veterans in the game. People began to appreciate the professional way in which the game was played by the Darwen club. Both Sutler and John became the first stars in the game of soccer.

The term “soccer” has an interesting piece of history attached to it. In the 1880s, the Oxford students developed a panache of using slang with an “er” added to the end of words they had purposely shortened. “Rugger”, for example, was slang for Rugby Football. The story goes that a student called Charles Wreford Brown was invited for a game of “Rugger”. His reply was, “No soccer!” He had actually abridged the word “Soc” from association, and added “er.” The term “soccer” was thus born, and Wreford Brown went on to play international football, or Soccer, for England.

In 1885, the professional way of playing the football was legalized by The Football Association, paving an eventful landmark in the history of Soccer. This move changed the way the game was played universally. Soccer became the greatest sport on the face of the planet. In 1888, William McGregor, a Scot, created the English Football League by asking 12 clubs to comply with a standard home and “away from home” fixture list. The director of Aston Villa club is credited with merging 12 clubs, namely:

Accrington (Old Reds)
Aston Villa
Blackburn Rovers
Bolton Wanderers
Derby County
Notts County
Preston North End
Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion
Wolverhampton Wanderers

Soccer steadily grew in fame and sponsorship and today it is the universal game played across all continents. The history of Soccer has seen a lot of tests, triumphs and turbulent times. What has come up trumps is the unwavering spirit of the game. The world’s largest spectator sport drew a television audience of 28.8 billion viewers, raving and ranting for their favorites in the 2002 Fifa Cup. Soccer has come a long way since its inception, and now with the FIFA world cup kicking off in June 2006, the fever is still raging.

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