How Football Began

There has been some debate on whether England first played football, some schools of thought have suggested that it was actually China that was the first nation to play the game, but this is hotly disputed in the English quarters.

The actual name football came about not to do with anything about physically kicking a ball. It was thought to have derived from how the game was played, on foot rather than on horseback. Soccer is what the Americans like to call football to differentiate it from Grid Iron or American Football. But soccer is actually slang in English for the word association which refers to the game’s more formal name which is Association Football (so that it differed from rugby football).


The real origins of football date back to the 19th Century when a form of Association Football was played in Sheffield. This early game bears no real resemblance to the sport we know today, but it was the beginnings of the most popular sport in the world today. The formative game consisted of a player who ran towards the goal with the ball, his teammates were behind him waiting to support him and pick the ball up if he was tackled. When this happened the second player continued running towards the opponent’s goal with the rest of his teammates behind him. The concept of moving the ball towards the opponent’s goal by passing came later and it was introduced by the Scottish early in the 20th Century.

The Scottish Influence

This Scottish way to play football became popular in Europe in the 1920s and was exemplified by the likes of the Austrian national team who took to positions and passing the ball through the team from one end of the pitch to the other. The new Scottish influenced game soon spread in Central Europe and the first real team to embrace it in its entirety was the Magnificent Magyars, who were the Hungarian national team. One of their greatest victories was against England in 1953 when they thrashed the English Lions by 6-3 at Wembley Stadium.

Domestic Football

The first domestic football league in England was founded in 1888, but there were many clubs already established before this date playing friendly matches. The English Football League (EPL) is the oldest football competition in the world. It was Aston Villa who were instrumental in getting eleven other clubs to join in a professional league. Mainly these clubs were from the Midlands and the North West of England and not until later the league was expanded with clubs from all over the country.

Crowd of Soldiers Watching a Football Game. (Photo by: Pen and Sword Books/UIG via Getty Images)

The twelve founding clubs were, Accrinton, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanders, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Then in 1892 a new Second Division was founded, and the birth of football was well and truly underway. Now football is the most watched and played game all over the world, the invention of TV has catapulted it into the far flung regions of the four corners of the globe and it is getting bigger and bigger.