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The earliest evidence for an activity recognized as a form of football is from 3rd century BC
during the Han Dynasty in China. It was a simple ball game known as Cuju where the
objective was to kick a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of cloth positioned
a couple of meters above ground. It was originally used and intended as a military exercise but
the popularity of the game quickly spread among the upper class. The game later spread
to other nations and also inspired the Japanese game Kemari in which people stand in a circle
trying to keep a ball in the air by kicking it for as long as possible. It's essentially
the same as kick-ups but with slightly different rules. And clothes. Evidence for ancient games similar
to football has also been found in places like Greece and Italy. But it wasn't until
the 9th century that modern day football truly began to take shape. Between the 9th and 13th
century, an activity known as medieval- or mob football spiked in popularity in England,
Scotland, and France. Mob football is exactly what it sounds like, large mobs (usually entire villages)
would compete against each other trying to get a small object, like an inflated
animal bladder, to a specific location. And with the exception of murder and manslaughter,
almost anything was allowed to complete this objective. The games got so violent and disruptive
to non-participants that in 1314, King Edward II issued a proclamation banning football
in London. Many attempts to ban the games would follow in all three countries, but the
bans were not very effective as people just kept on playing in secret. Beginning in the
16th century, a slightly different and familiar form of football were being played at public
schools across England. It was a lot less violent than regular mob football and more
strict regulations where soon established. Things like only being allowed to use your
feet, having a referee and a coach, passing, dribbling, and having a goal with a designated
goalkeeper on each end of the playing field. Football began to transform into an organized
sport rather than a chaotic riot. The problem was that each school developed it's own version
of the game with slightly different rules. For example at Rugby School, they preferred
a more violent game where you could tackle your opponents and still carry the ball in
your arms and hands and thus Rugby and Gridiron Football was born.
Increasing attempts to unify and reconcile the various public school games were made and in 1848,
the first written rules where penned at the University of Cambridge. These rules became widely adopted
and in 1863 The Football Association was founded in London to continue to promote football under a unified
set of regulations. As the sport became increasingly popular all over the globe, a need for an
international association became apparent and thus FIFA was founded in France in 1904.
Today it's estimated that 3.5 billion people, or half the
population of the entire globe, are fans of football.
Why is it that countries like the US and Canada insist on calling the sport soccer while the
rest of the world calls it football? It also makes a lot less sense to call a sport football
when it mostly consist of using your hands. But it does make a bit more sense if you know
where it came from. Calling the sport soccer actually began back in England and here's
why. As The Football Association was founded in London in 1863, the sport became officially
known as Association Football. That was and still is the full title of the sport. This
was done to distinguish Association Football from other variations of the game such as
Rugby Football and Gaelic Football. But using the full titles in conversation can be a bit
tedious so shorthand names where used in their place. And a popular conversational form of
creating abbreviations at the time was by applying the suffix "-er".
So Rugby Football became "rugger" and Association Football became "footer" or "socker".
Often spelled with a "ck" at the time. So the word soccer comes from the abbreviation of the word
association (assoc.) found in the full title of the sport Association Football.
In 1998 a match in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo was suddenly disrupted by
a lightning strike. Now lightning strikes during football matches are not exactly unheard
of, but this one was definitely a unique case. Not only did half the players on the field
die as a result of being struck by lightning. They where all from the same team. The other
team remarkably left the match completely unharmed. The local population, known to believe
in things like charms and spells, was divided over weather or not the team was cursed. And
what further fueled this rumor was that the game was tied 1-1 at the time of the incident
and the team that died was the visiting team.
The record for the highest scoreline of all time in professional football occurred in
2002 in Madagascar and ended with a score of 149-0. However, the reason for this absurd
amount of goals was that the players of the loosing team kept on kicking the ball into
their own goal. They did this as a protest against a referee decision. The previous record
occurred in 1885, with a scoreline of 36-0. The record for the largest victory in an international
football match happened in 2001 between Australia and American Samoa with a scoreline of 31-0.
Just like the game in 1885, the reason for the high score counts were because of the teams
skill level being incredibly mismatched.
To a lot of people, football is a big deal. In places like Brazil for example it's more
or less comparable to a religion. And just like a religion, this extreme passion for
the sport can lead to some quite extreme situations. A perfect example of this is the 1950 FIFA
World Cup hosted in Brazil. In the finals, it was Brazil up against Uruguay. For multiple
days prior to the match both the press and the general public assumed that Brazil would
come out as the world champions. The organizers of the event had even prepared a speech for
when Brazil ultimately won. To everyone's surprise, Brazil lost the match with a final
score of 2-1, resulting in one of the biggest upsets in football history. So much so that
some fans actually committed suicide by throwing themselves off the stands at the stadium.
And a noticeable wave of suicides where reported in the days that followed. Brazilian newspapers
and radio hosts even tried to ignore or deny the fact that they had been defeated. The
entire thing has become known as "Maracanazo" after the name of the stadium.
Even more dramatic, the 1970 FIFA World Cup prompted a war between two nations. In 1969,
Honduras and El Salvador met during the qualification rounds for the upcoming World Cup. Honduras
won the first game with a score of 1-0 which sparked a lot of violence among the fans.
El Salvador would go on to win the second game with a score of 3-0 which ignited another
wave riots and violence. Finally, a play-off match took place which ended with El Salvador
as the winner with a score of 3-2. Now, before all of this, these two nations where not exactly
friends. Issues over land reform, immigration, and demographic problems where all rampant
long before these games ever took place. So when El Salvador won the final game, Hondurans
began assaulting and harassing Salvadoran immigrants all across the country as a sort
of retaliation for losing the game. El Salvador, seeing this as a form of genocide, dissolved
all democratic relations with Honduras the very same day, and launched an attack on the
nation only two weeks after the final match. The war lasted for 4 days until a cease-fire
was signed, at which point more than 2000 people had died. Because of this, it's become
known as The Football War.
The oldest football ball still in existence was found during an excavation project at
Stirling Castle in Scotland. It's believed to be around 450 years old and is made out
of a pigs bladder and cow leather.
Whenever the Mexican player Javier Hernández plays a match, crime rates in Mexico actually
drop significantly. Mexican police has discovered that criminals across the country take a break
from criminal activities to watch this national hero play a match. Crimes like carjackings,
muggings, and robberies all have a noticeable drop whenever he's on TV. Not only that but
his appearance in a match even increases Mexico's birth rates.
During the 1962 FIFA World Cup, a game between Chile and Italy became infamously known as
"The Battle of Santiago". Tension between the two nations and teams had built-up long
before the game began and as a result, the players became rather violent during the game.
The first attack happening only 12 seconds after the match began and later in the game
one player even performed a dropkick-style maneuver. The referee during the game was
Ken Aston who did his best to control the increasingly violent players. As a direct
result of this violent match, Ken Aston later introduced the idea of using yellow and red cards as
a means of penalizing a player. Apparently the idea came to him as he drove down a street
and saw the green, yellow, and red traffic lights.
In 1863, the newly formed Football Association in England stated that the goal posts for
a goal should be 24 feet (7.32 m) apart. A rule which still stands to this day. However
nothing was said of the height of the goal. The height was usually indicated by a string
between the two posts but could theoretically be limitless. Meaning that a goal could be
scored at any height as long as the ball passed in between the two posts. Of course, not having
a standardized rule for the height resulted in arguments and disagreements. It wasn't
until 1882 that a solid crossbar was required at height of 8 feet (2.44 m). Which remains
true to this day. However it is still not a requirement (only mandated)
for a goal in Association Football to have a net.