As Manchester United and Chelsea players take to the pitch this Saturday 8th February 2020, they are playing a game that has a rich and rather lethal history.
Football, also known as soccer and even as “chess of the green pitch” has a long history, its current form emerged in the mid-19th century.
There are some rather scary early versions notably playing with a rock, which symbolised the sun, over 3000 years ago, and the captain of the losing team would then be sacrificed to the gods – good motivation to perform at one’s best!
Ancient Greece and Roman culture are known to have influenced the development in the UK, but it was played in some form here since the 12th century. The ball was punched and kicked, and the violence prompted it to be banned twice, but it had been established in schools by the early 19th century, which led to a rapid growth in popularity.
Rugby and Eton, two prominent public schools, developed football in their own styles. At Rugby, players were encouraged to pick up and run with the ball, leading to modern day rugby union, while at Eton, the ball was only kicked and closely resembled the game we see today.
The first Football Association was formed in the 1860’s and football clubs, forming leagues, happened later in the century. Although many public schools still played the game, football had become very popular with the working class, a situation that grew as players started to be paid.
As with many things in history, women were for a long time excluded from participating in games; it was not before the late 19th century that they started to play football.
The Football Association Challenge Cup, the FA Cup, was played for the first time in 1871 and 12 years later the first international tournament featuring the 4 home nations took place. The spread to other European countries was gradual.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in 1904 and a foundation act was signed by representatives from France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. England and the other British countries did not join FIFA from the start, they had invented the game and saw no reason to subordinate to an association. Although they joined in the following year, they would not partake in the World Cup until 1950.
The winners of the Premier League in 2020 follow in some highly illustrious footsteps and can thank their predecessors for a job well done.