October 10, 2009
History of European Football - Part - I


We’re living in a World where soccer is an international frenzy and to many, even a religion. The fact that a church was formed in the name of Diego Armando Maradona, the Argentinean legendary striker, proves me right. It’s hard to imagine the World without soccer, but *gasp* this world once existed. Follow me through the article below, and I’ll tell you how soccer was born and how it evolved throughout history.

The History of Soccer – Ancient Times

It’s hard to say who invented soccer and there are several opinions regarding this subject. Sure, the country that invented modern soccer as it is known today is England, but historical references attest that diverse forms of soccer were around for ages.

For example, a military document found in China attested a game called Cuju, played around the second century B.C. It wasn’t soccer per se, but it did involve kicking a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth strung between two high poles.

It definitely wasn’t an easy game to play! Just consider how many of today’s strikers have problems missing a 7 meter wide goal, let alone put a rugged leather ball through a small hole.

Other Asian countries show us that the history of the game of soccer was probably born in this area. But the pleasure of kicking a ball with some sort of purpose wasn’t necessarily solely Asian.

Mesoamerican civilizations also devised a game played with rubber balls, which resembled a combination between soccer, basketball and volleyball. The game involved two teams, playing in a sort of basin dug below ground level, with baskets strapped in several locations on the side walls. The teams would then have to kick the ball towards these baskets, and score a goal.

Obviously, kicking a ball through a ring somewhere up on the wall is hard enough as it is, but considering the fact that they were playing with a rubber ball, which is harder to control, gives us a perspective on why central and south Americans are so skilled at modern day soccer.

Ancient Greeks and Romans also had their own versions of the game, or they imported the ones coming from Asia. One game, called Pheninda was a combination between soccer and rugby, which was popular amongst the ranks of the Imperial armies.

The History of Soccer – Middle Ages

As we go forward on the history of soccer timeline, we notice that the game has gradually entered European territory, Europe being the place where modern day soccer will start in several centuries. Middle age soccer is covered in a combination of myth and historical facts. One popular form of the game (Mob soccer) involved entire villages or towns and was rather chaotic.

The teams could have unlimited players, as long as they were from the same village or town. Both teams had to kick the ball towards specific landmarks, and defend their own.

To add more chaos, the ball was made out of inflated pigs’ bladders, or leather skins stuffed with all sorts of materials.

Picture two masses of people running towards a poor pig bladder ball, kicking, stomping, punching and pushing each other in the attempt to kick the object to some area…

In medieval France, a game called “La Choule” was usually played in town gatherings, such as just after Sunday church, or on special occasions or holidays.

The game itself looked like a combination of soccer, handball, hockey, baseball and kickboxing, since the players of each team had to strike the ball into the opponent’s goal, using whatever means necessary and whatever accessories necessary.

For example, one record shows that players were allowed to use sticks or clubs to hit the ball around, although it wasn’t always the ball that got hit.

The game was violent in nature and I assume there were plenty occasions where the after-church Choule match ended up with another trip to the church to confess some violent sins.

In England, the game was surrounded by an aura of violence and was considered a dangerous and sinful game. As such, it was banned in 1314 by Nicholas de Farndone, the Mayor of London.

The motive of the ban, as read from de Farndone’s decree, is that the game causes “great noise in the city, caused by hustling over large foot balls” of the public “from which many evils might arise”. That is also the first reference to the game as “football”.

Despite this ban, soccer became to grow in medieval England and it was not long that it was introduced in English public schools in order to keep young boys fit.

The game started becoming slightly more organized, with well defined teams, positions, referees and coaches (deemed “training masters” in early records).

Still, rules would differ from school to school, but the essence was still there.

The examples above come from very clear historical references, but like I said, there’s also a great deal of myth surrounding the history of soccer during that period. One legend says that soccer was actually born at public executions, where the henchman would deprive a poor soul of his head, then toss it into the crowd where the masses would kick it with anger.

Although the barbaric nature of this “game” would fit the mentality of the time, there’s no proof that this kind of events actually sparked what will soon become organized soccer. — www.soccer-fans-info.com

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