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When was football invented?

Can you imagine a world without football? No endless debate about whether Ronaldo is better than Messi or vice versa. No 3 pm kick-off on a Saturday. No moments like Man City’s title win in 2012. No VAR!

If you lived before the 1900s (which I highly doubt you did), you’d know a world with no football as we know it today.

In this blog, I’ll take you on a journey to the origin of the beautiful game – who invented football and when.

Who invented football?

Football was officially founded in 1863 by what we know today as the English Football Association (source: Britannica). As I’ll talk about later in this blog, this wasn’t the concept of football that was first thought of.

Since football originated in 1863, professional football has grown and progressed just as the world has moved to the point that watching a football match back then would be almost unrecognisable to us nowadays.

The English FA provided a platform for the world to mould the ball game into the most loved sport in the world, which is watched by billions around the globe.

Daily Mail headline for World War 1 stopping for game of football

During the early years of football, the world war even stopped on Christmas of 1914 when German and English soldiers played a game of football against each other – a day after and a day before they had plans to shoot bullets at each other.

What are the earliest records of football?

Although we English folk love to boast that we invented football in England (therefore, we must have a right to be the best at it), the idea of kicking a ball around came about much, much earlier than the 19th century in England.

Two thousand sixty-nine years earlier, to be exact.

Yes, the earliest record of when football was played was in 206 BC, known as “cuju” in China. You wouldn’t believe it, but cuju translates to “kickball” in English. Even in 206 BC, no one thought of calling it football or soccer.

The aim of cuju was, as it is very much today, to kick the ball into a goal.

Interestingly, when I visited Chichen Itza in 2022, my tour guide explained a Chinese game the Mayans played during their time. It reminded me of the early forms of football too.

The game involved two teams (similar to football) competing to get the ball to the opposing team’s “goal” (similar to football). The only difference is the goal was 20 metres above them, and whoever won the game was killed. Winning (or dying) was seen as honourable by the Mayans, but thankfully not seen in modern football.

I can’t imagine VAR deciding if 1mm of Harry Kane’s shoulder being offside is worthy of death.

Oldest And Newest Football Clubs

Established in 1857, Sheffield Football Club are recognised by FIFA as the first football club (and therefore “oldest”) in the world, still playing today. They played by their own set of rules – literally!

Sheffield FC played under the Sheffield rules of the game, which included such regulations as:

●      Players were allowed to catch the ball if it didn’t bounce on the ground

●      Throw-ins were awarded to the first team who touched the ball after it went out of play

●      Goals could only be scored by kicking

I guess if you’re the first official football club to exist, you can bend the rules to whatever suits you best. They even made it to No.2 on our oldest football stadiums list.

However, as the English FA grew in stature and other locations around the country established their own football clubs, Sheffield FC eventually played by the FA rules in 1878. The FA football league rules have been in place since that year but have been expanded, refined, and altered almost every year since.

From the oldest football club to a new one with no location in its name – enter Hashtag United.

Hashtag United is a true example of the progression of the modern game and digital media. The club utilises a sizeable online audience to quickly climb through the lower leagues in England – they even won their regional division in the 8th tier this past season.

Evolution Of Football Games

Early football match

It’s crazy to think that outfield players were allowed to catch the ball when football was first invented. If you could go back and watch how the game was played in 1863, you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on!

 Year after year, football has grown and evolved to suit everyone involved. However, in recent times, the beautiful game has been tainted with hints of corruption and unrest among fans.

That is because football is now a business in the entertainment genre more than it is a sport.

There is so much money involved in the game today to the point where everything, more or less, revolves around the question, “How can we make money from this?”.

However, at the core, moments of beauty remain the reason fans worldwide love the sport – with millions of fans tuning in to watch the World Cup or a FA Cup game.

The feeling you get when your team scores a winning goal or lifts a trophy has the power to make you forget about all the corruption, horrible VAR decisions, and the cost of your ticket. Football really is a beautiful game.

History Of Football Summary

In truth, the origins of football are complex, with various cultures contributing to its development over centuries. While it may be impossible to identify a single inventor of football as we know it today or where football began, what is clear is that it has become a global sport.

Whether you’re a fan of the Premier League or simply enjoy kicking a ball around with friends, football is here to stay. So next time you step onto the pitch, remember that you’re taking part in a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years (perhaps thousands).

Maybe you’ll make football history yourself someday!

PS. If you’re from England, you can try boasting that you’re from the same country that invented one of the world’s most popular sports – even if your country has only won one major trophy in its entire history.

And as a football fan (and player), I would like to thank the English Football Association of 1863 for inventing football!

Rhys Hanscombe

Rhys Hanscombe

About The Author

Rhys is a sports and fitness writer, football player and personal trainer. He has notched up an impressive CV, with a Diploma in Sport Performance and is a FA Level 1 Football Coach. He also shares his knowledge and experiences on his own site, where visitors can find out everything from healthy lifestyles to motorsport.

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