Soccer Facts

See the fact file below for more information on Soccer or alternatively, you can download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.

The Beginning of the Sport

  • The very earliest form of the game with scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual in China dating back to 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.
  • The Han Dynasty ancestor of a football was called Ts’u Chu. It was a leather ball measuring 30-40cm in diameter filled with feathers and hair.
  • In Japan, a similar form of this game, called kemari, began about 500-600 years after the creation of Ts’u Chu, followed by chuk-guk in Korea and woggabaliri in Australia.
  • The Greek episkyros and the Roman harpastum was later played with a smaller ball by two teams on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centreline. The objective was to get the ball over the opposition’s territory.

Prelude to Global Popularity

  • As early 1314, soccer grew in popularity in Europe, however authorities issued proclamations forbidding the sport within the city due to the chaos it usually caused.
  • In 1365, King Edward III of England actually made the game punishable by law because it distracted soldiers from practising more useful military disciplines, particularly archery. The ban lasted almost 500 years.
  • Although soccer was popular from the 8th to the 19th century, it was disorganised, violent, more spontaneous and was usually played by an indefinite number of players.
  • It was nine years after the rules of soccer were first established in 1863 that the size and weight of the soccer ball was finally standardised.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century, school soccer became the custom, particularly in the famous public schools. But the rules were still relatively free and easy, with no standard form of the game.
  • Handling the ball was initially allowed, but on 8 December 1863, soccer finally disallowed it. The game that adapted ball-handling became the official sport of rugby.
  • It was in the same year that the Football Association was formed.

Worldwide Membership

  • The world’s oldest football/soccer competition is the FA Cup, which was founded by C.W. Alcock and has been contested by English teams since 1872.
  • The first official international match took place in 1872 in Glasgow, between Scotland and England.
  • England is also home to the world’s first football/soccer league, which was founded in Birmingham in 1888 by
  • Aston Villa director William McGregor. The original format contained 12 clubs from the Midlands and Northern England.
  • When FIFA was founded in Paris in May 1904, it had seven founder members: France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • By 1925, the number had increased to 36, while in 1930 – the year of the first World Cup – it was 41.
  • Over the next half-century, football’s popularity continued to attract new devotees and at the end of the 2007 FIFA Congress, FIFA had 208 members in every part of the world.

Women and Soccer

  • While soccer was played in many countries, women in London were banned from playing the game in 1921. It lasted for 50 years.
  • By contrast, Italy and France established women’s leagues in early 1930s.
  • The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta initiated women’s soccer as an Olympic event.
  • The first Women’s World Cup was held in China from 16-30 November, 1991. It was pursued by Dr. Hao Joao Havelange, the president of FIFA.
  • At that tournament, the U.S. team won, beating Norway 2-1 in the finals. The U.S. later won the third Women’s World Cup in 1999, beating China in a shootout. That tournament was held in the United States.
  • Currently, it is played at the professional level in numerous countries throughout the world and 176 national teams participate internationally.
  • Twice the FIFA World Player of the Year, Mia Hamm led the United States to FIFA World Cup titles in 1991 and 1999 and Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004.
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