Basically, people like kicking things around.
Okay, so not many Americans seem to -- we prefer
throwing things (e.g., baseball, basketball) and
full-body assault (e.g., football, hockey) but you
have to admit that there's an appeal to just
knocking the crap out of something with your foot.
The earliest accounts of a game that resembled modern-day soccer can be found, where
else, in ancient China — though this version wasn't pirated from somewhere else.
Historians have found evidence dating from 2500 BC that a game known as "tsu chu" was
played during the celebration of the emperor's birthday, and it involved kicking animal-skin
balls through a hole in a net erected on tall poles.
Of course, most of us think of soccer as
an Old World game common amongst the Brits, and true to form, they were hooligans as
far back as 1100 AD. There are accounts of the game being played in England for hundreds
of years, but by the twelfth century, it had devolved into a mob riot played without any
rules. Since the kings weren't too keen on losing their soldiers and tax-paying citizens to
these early versions of a Sex Pistols' concert, the game was banned repeatedly by royal
But an early version of the game was popular even over here: Native Americans played a
game called "pasuckuakohowog," meaning "they gather to play ball with the foot," long
before the Italian forward, Columbus, was substituted into the continent in 1492.
These games involved as many as 1000 players and were often played on beaches half a mile
wide with goals a mile apart. The first attempt at formal rules for the game were
published by an Italian, Giovanni Bardi,
who referred to the game as "calcio." In fact, that's what soccer is still called in Italy, so
when we said that everyone else calls it football, we lied a little. But hey, maybe after
America wins the World Cup three times, then we can justify calling the game something
Almost three centuries later, in 1877, the football associations of Great Britain
assembled to draw up a uniform code. Back then, the British Empire was more than just a
pathetic memory, so the game and its rules were exported widely across the world, which is
why it is so universal today. Since the creation of those nineteenth century rules, the game
has remained largely unchanged, though the international governing body, FIFA
(Federation Internationale de Football Association), does modify the rules from time