The Long History of Soccer
This week, with everyone’s attention riveted on FIFA The World Cup, the final pitting Croatia against France on Sunday, as well as the Thailand Wild Boar soccer team and their dramatic rescue from the cave, it seemed an appropriate time to talk about the game. Soccer is about the only game using a ball that is a universal language. Drop a round ball anywhere in the world and someone will deliver a soccer kick to it, beginning a conversation, even if the participants don’t understand each other’s speech.
Children in America play the game, at least until they’re old enough for more rugged sports, like American football. Due to the American Soccer League’s best efforts and massive amounts of money spent to woo the top players, the popularity of the sport among adults is slowly gaining momentum. Soccer is now the fourth most popular sport in the United States, lagging behind American football, baseball and basketball. Soccer in other parts of the world is more popular than any other sport, however, and has been for a long time. Soccer is the world’s favorite game.
The origins of the game of soccer trace back to ancient China, Greece, Rome and even Central America. More than 2,000 years ago, boys and girls were playing a rudimentary form of the game. In America, some say soccer was introduced by immigrants coming through Ellis Island. Others say residents of New Orleans were playing it long before Ellis Island. Native Americans had a form of the game, called Pasuckuakohowog, or Kicking Ball Sport. It was played by the Algonkin and Powhatan tribes.
England is responsible for bringing the game to a mainstream audience, as “football”, as it is called, has been wildly popular for years. The British were responsible for formulating the first set of guidelines, or rules to the game. The British were the ones to forbid touching the ball with the hands, and to penalize those who tripped their opponents. The penalty kick was made part of the sport in 1891, and the red and yellow penalty cards were introduced in 1970. Yellow cards are caution cards, signaling a form of misconduct on the field. Two caution cards are allows per player. After that, he or she receives a red card and must leave the game immediately.
Today, the sport is governed by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). This governing body was founded in 1904 and consisted of seven founding countries, but grew steadily. By 1912, there were 21 national association members. By 1925, the number increased to 36. By the time the first World Cup was played in 1930, the number of countries involved was 41.
The first international contest was held between England and Scotland in 1872 to an audience of 4,000. The English had developed the technique of running forward with the ball while the Scottish chose to pass the ball between players. The Scottish form is the predominant one used today. The pitch is about 100 meters in length and 60 meters wide.
Soccer continued to gain in popularity, and by 2007 FIFA has 208 members in every part of the world. The soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro, built in 1950, had room for an audience of 200,000 people. Today, the World Cup is hotly contested and followed by every country on the globe. The fans are some of the most fanatic in the world, and the announcer’s excited SC-O-O-O-O-O-O-ORE is unmatched in any other sport.
Becky Lower missed out on the childhood soccer craze, although she does lay claim to a nephew who was quite proficient at the game, and once dated an English fellow who played in a semi-pro league in Britain. These days, she likes to watch matches from the comfort of her armchair.