At the turn of the 21st Century, football was played by over 250 million people across the globe, making it by far the world`s most popular sport. It has a rich and fascinating history and can be traced all the way back to the medieval period.
In this era, the game would be pretty unrecognisable to what is played by so many people across the world today. It would have been extremely chaotic and there would have been few rules, yet nonetheless it persisted as a popular past time and records suggest even King Arthur`s knights enjoyed `playing at ball`. In addition, several rulers banned football, including Edward III who deemed it an idle game and others prohibited it because they believed it incited rioting and violence. The earliest record of football boots comes when King Henry VIII ordered, within his requests for royal footwear, "a leather pair for football".
Despite these several early mentions, the game we know today, styled as `association football` did not come into being until the 1800s. It had its origins in the public school system, where students from academies such as Eton and Harrow tried to establish a set of rules to be agreed upon by all players across the country. This only had limited success and it wasn`t until 1863 when Ebenezer Cobb Morley, a solicitor from Hull, suggested an organisation to manage football throughout Britain and thus became the first secretary and later president of the Football Association. He is not only viewed as the father of this organisation but also as the father of association football as a whole, due largely to his formulation of the rules that are, in a slightly altered form, still played today.
Over the next few years, the rules were tweaked as players were no longer allowed to handle the ball (with the exception of the goalkeeper), passing forward was authorised and the more violent aspects of the game were toned down. Other crucial factors such as number of players, shape of the ball and penalties were not applied universally - it was up to the two captains to decide this before each separate match. In 1871, the idea was born for there to be a challenge cup within the Football Association; this was accepted and became the first ever FA Cup. In its debut year, it was won by Wanderers FC who beat the Royal Engineers 1-0. The Football League was first created in 1888 with a mere 12 teams and the first international match was played between England and Scotland in 1872.
Football continued to grow in popularity throughout the rest of the 19th and into the 20th Century and it spread widely across the world. It is even known to have been played between British and German troops during the Christmas truce of the First World War. Due to the growing popularity of international games, FIFA was established in 1904 and the first men`s World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930.
Despite football`s wide spread across the globe its roots are still in Britain, where some of the world`s best-known domestic teams play and events such as an Anfield tour
are a great way to soak up the true history and culture of this magnificent sport.