It is a fact that different countries have played a game similar to the present day soccer at varying points of time in sports history. It is therefore somewhat difficult to assert with confidence when and where soccer had its origins though many say the game is several centuries old. Soccer is reportedly Anglo-Saxon in origin and there are many interesting legends and myths associated with the game.
The Munich Ethnological Museum in Germany is in possession of a Chinese text dating back to 50 B.C. that refers to games similar to soccer that were played between Japan and China. However, historical research affirms, with a fair degree of certainty, that a soccer game was played in 611 A.D. in the then Japanese capital, Kyoto – players using a hair-filled leather ball.
There is also historical evidence to suggest that the Romans played a game almost similar to modern soccer. The earliest Olympic Games in Rome featured soccer with twenty-seven men to a side. It is said that the game was played with a lot of aggression and many players landed in the hospital after treatment of physical injuries.
Researchers may have conflicting views on the history of soccer, but one thing appears certain that soccer had flourished in varied forms for several centuries in diverse rudimentary form in many regions of England, its supposed birthplace.
It is rather unfortunate that while historical records aplenty are available about wars, battles, invasion and religious movements, there is hardly any worthwhile records about the history of various sports. Thus, history throws scant light on how soccer spread from Asia to Europe and other parts of the world.
Interestingly, during the reign of King Edward in England (1307-1327), soccer was resented by many and laws were enacted to punish with imprisonment anyone playing soccer. Even King Henry IV and Henry VIII condemned the sport, and Queen Elizabeth I declared that soccer players will be jailed for a week, with follow-up penance in church. The public outcry against soccer was primarily due to disturbance of law and order and damage to public property.
But the redeeming feature was neither the laws nor royal authority could forbid soccer for long. And the game earned official recognition in England by 1681and became terribly popular by the year 1800. The contemporary history of football is a couple of centuries old and the passion for soccer has continued unabated to this day.
It is an irony of history that England, where soccer met with stiff resistance and banned, eventually popularized modern soccer in every corner of the world. Difficult to believe, but today soccer is arguably the most watched sport in the world, unequalled even by the Olympics.
The international football community grew rapidly despite intermittent setbacks. In 1912, 21 national associations were already affiliated to the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). By 1925, the strength had gone up to 36 and in 1930 – the year of the first World Cup – it was 41. After the end of the Second World War, the number of associations had reached 73. At present, FIFA has 204 members spread across the world post 2000 FIFA Congress.