The History of Football: Where It All Began

Last updated on December 24th, 2022 at 01:08 am

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The roots of modern football can be traced back to the third and fourth centuries, with a game known as ‘episkyros’ first being recorded in the region of Greece.

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This game involved kicking around an inflated animal bladder, with players trying to get their team-mates to catch it. The word “football” was first used in English in the early 19th century.

It was either a direct translation from another language or an adaptation from the sports termed “football” practiced at English universities at that time; those sports have their own history.

Football has come a long way from its humble beginnings, evolving over time into the globally recognizable sport we know today. Let’s take a look at how it all started…

The History of Football: Where it All Began

The earliest recorded games of football were either an adaptation of the English public school games of rugby football or association football.

The first example of football in England was a rulebook for an association football game that was published in 1863, called “The backyard of the inn”.

The first detailed description of what was almost certainly association football was given by Charles W. Kingsley in 1872, in which he described the “pully-gully” game.

There is a claim that this was a variation of the “football to kick” game still played in various forms in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but there is no clear evidence for this: the word “pully-gully” was used in Australia and New Zealand in the 19th century, and “foot-ball” was used in Scotland as a name for several football games, such as the “captain’s game” (very similar to rugby football).

The first game of Australian rules football was played in 1859, The game was started by a few Melbourne members of the Victorian Cricket Club looking for a winter activity.

They modified the rules to suit a kicking game, using a ball which was thrown, not kicked, and adding “mark” and “goal” to the rules.

The History of Football: Ancient Times

The origins of football can be traced back as far as the third century BC in Ancient China when people kicked around inflated animal bladders.

In the ninth century, the Chinese also attached leather to their feet and used a pigskin ball, which was the origin of modern-day football.

In ancient Rome, a game called harpastum was popular. It involved kicking a sparrow’s eggs. This is believed to be the origin of the word “football”.

The History of Football: The Medieval Era

The first true account of a game that resembled football was written in 1280 by William Fitz-Stephen, a London based businessman and Mayor of the City of London in the 14th century.

His account entitled ‘The Football Game’ detailed the many different rules and customs of the time and is the oldest written record of football.

This game was played in the open air. The field was likely not to have been marked at all, and the ball was made of animal bladders or pig or sheep’s stomachs.

The goal was probably a church or a large tree, with the idea being to kick the ball as far away as possible.

Early Games and Codes: 1800s-1900s

Football is often credited with being the first sport to be institutionalized, as the first football clubs were formed in the second half of the 19th century.

The Football Association was founded in England in 1863 and published the first Rules of Association Football the following year.

This book provided guidelines for the number of players, the equipment (which included a round ball), the rules of the game, the length of each game and other areas that remain part of association football today, such as the appointment of referees and the distinction between Amateurism and Professionalism.

There is also evidence of other codes being played in the early 19th century, including the “Sheffield Rules”, which were first played in 1857, “Cambridge Rules” (1861), “Liverpool Rules” (1864) and the “Scottish Rules” (1873). However, these codes were very different from the modern game of football and there is debate about whether these football games are really connected with the modern sport.

A code of football was played in Australia as early as 1843 in the colony of Victoria. The Melbourne Football Club has been the world’s oldest football club since 18 May 1858. Australian rules football is also the world’s most highly attended football code and is the most widely played football game in the world.

Football Becomes Institutionalized: 1900s-1950s

Rules of the game continued to evolve and be refined throughout the early part of the 20th century. In the early 20th century, the game was played with a round ball, primarily by Rugby School boys.

The London Football Association was formed in 1901, but the game was very different from the modern game of football.

The modern game of rugby league was formed in 1895. American football was growing in popularity and was the first game to introduce a system of promotion and relegation and a league system.

The Football League was formed in 1888 and the Scottish Football League was formed in 1890. The first international match between Scotland and England was played in 1872 and the first football tournament, the British Home Championship, was played in 1884.

The Modern Game: 1950s to Present Day

Football has evolved significantly since the beginning of the 20th century, particularly with the introduction of new rules, technology, and the changes to the laws of the game which have been brought about by new methods of coaching, new styles of play, and new types of equipment.

The 1950s saw the adoption of the “WM” formation which featured a centre-forward playing inside the “18-yard box”, and wingers outside the box. The 1960s saw the introduction of Continental coaching, which brought many innovations and new concepts to the game.

In the 1966 World Cup, England revolutionized the game by introducing “total football”, a style which broke the lines of traditional play and emphasized the importance of team work and ball movement to break down the opposition.


The history of football is vast, and there are many theories about where the game originated. The most widely accepted theory is that the sport evolved from the Chinese game of cuju, which involved kicking around an inflated animal bladder. Despite this, there is also an ongoing debate about the origins of football.

Some claim that the game was actually invented in England, while others believe it was actually brought to the country from China. While we may never know the exact origins of football, what is certain is that the sport has evolved significantly over the years and will continue to do so as time progresses.


Where Did Football Began and Start?

The history of football is a bit murky, but it is generally believed that the game began in Britain in the 19th century. Though there were variations of the game played during medieval times, football began to be standardized when it was taken up by public schools. It then spread from there to the universities and eventually to the rest of the world.

Where Is the Real Origin of Football?

The game of football has its origins in England, dating back to 1863. However, the game has gone through many changes and variations over the years, so its true origins are difficult to pinpoint. Nevertheless, England is generally considered the birthplace of the game.

How Did Football Get Started?

It is believed that American football originated from a game called “Mob Football”, which was played by villagers in England during the Middle Ages. This game was essentially a free-for-all where anything goes; there were no rules and players would simply fight for the ball.

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