Origin of Football

Football has a long history and many sources of influences. The first such reference goes all the way back to the 2nd century BC, in China during the Han Dynasty. A Chinese military manual refers to tsu chu, which was kicking a leather ball through a hole in some silk cloth that was hung between two poles standing about 30 feet tall. This form of sport was not really a game but simply done for the entertainment of the emperor.

Greeks and Romans played many games involving kicking balls with the feet, and there are many documents referencing ancient and traditional games played with some form of ball, from all over the world. These ancient forms of football were played between villages or towns that were neighbors with masses of people not counted out or limited in any way. Often, these led to bloody battles that were considered fun sport, yet injured many.

The first real reference to football, however, was recorded in 1409, when King Henry IV of England wanted to ban it. King James I of Scotland also wanted to ban “fute-ball” in 1424. There are records of some form of football in Ireland all the way back to 1527, when the Statute of Galway made football and archery legal but not “hokie” or several other sports. In the same century, the period between Epiphany and Lent was celebrated in Florence with a game known as “kickball in costume”, where aristocrats dressed up in fine silk and play a very violent sport resembling football.

Throughout history, there have been attempts to ban the game, as it evolved and occasionally was violent to the point of being fatal. Between the 14th and 17th century, in England alone, more than 30 royal and local laws attempted to end the sport. Edward III of England, in 1349, hated the practice, stating that it detracted from the popularity of archery, which was useful in war. This was particularly important to him, as many had been lost in the Black Death recently, and he felt the country needed as many archers as possible.

As a modern American game, the rules have changed considerably, though still an extremely physical game requiring harsh contact between players. However, the fact that the sport still exists at all is proof of its appeal to the masses and its durability under scrutiny.


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