25 Great Facts About Soccer History

The basics of soccer are known by most people. There are 2 teams of 11 players who try to score more goals than their opponent.

In this post, we’ll dig a little deeper and present you with some fun and interesting facts about soccer history that you probably didn’t know yet.

1. Soccer is the biggest sport in the world.

There are over 250 million official soccer players in the world who play the game in over 200 countries. There are however over a billion people playing the game regularly as a hobby as well, making it the biggest sport in the world by participation.

2. What’s the official name of the game.

In most countries, the game is referred to as soccer or football. The official name of the game is actually “Association Football.”

3. Only 7 countries in the world actually call it soccer.

In most countries, including the United Kingdom, the game is simply known as “football.” There are however 7 countries in which the game is referred to as “soccer.” These include the United States and Canada and 5 other countries which use soccer or a variation of it to define the game.

facts about soccer

4. Why do some other countries call it soccer?

This goes back to the period when soccer was invented. American football, for example, resembles rugby. Countries in which a variation of rugby became popular made the distinction between “soccer,” which is short for “Asoccer” and an abbreviation of “Association Football, and “Football,” which refers to the rugby-type game.

5. When was soccer invented?

The first “rules of the game” were created in 1848 in Cambridge, England. This was, however, a combination of Association football and a similar game called Rugby Football. In 1863, Association football had become a distinct game and specific rules were created to define it.

6. Kicking ball games were played thousands of years ago in China.

According to FIFA, the first kicking ballgame which can be verified was played in China during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) and was called “Cuju.” The basics of the rules were pretty much the same as players couldn’t use their hands and they were required to kick a leather ball filled with feathers into a small opening with a net.

Children playing Cuju
Children playing the ancient kicking ball game Cuju / Wiki Commons

7. A Japanese version of Cuju emerged as well.

A game called “Kemari” that was influenced by the Chinese game of Cuju emerged in Japan as well. The first reference is made in the year 644 A.D. and official rules of this game were created in the 13th century.

The Japanese game of Kemari / From the LACM / Wiki Commons

Remarkably, this game is still played today and even more remarkably, it was played by George Bush during one of his presidential visits to Japan in the early 90s. It’s a non-competitive game that resembles juggling the ball with multiple players involved.

8. There were many more ball games in history.

All around the world, similar types of games to soccer with different rules were played. In Greece, the game was called “Episkyros” and the Romans played a game called “Harpastum,” which was probably influenced by the Greek games. Even the Mayas had a ballcourt to play a ball game at Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza ballcourt
Ballcourt at Chichen Itza / Source

9. There is no historical reference for Association Football.

One of the important facts about soccer history is that there was no reference to other games. In other words, it hasn’t been influenced by any other games played in various parts of the world. British historian Tom Holland is pretty clear about it when asked about the historical references of Association Football:

I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the classical origins of football, for the simple reason they don’t exist. At no point did they come upon a local form of Association Football that needed to be eradicated before the British game could take root

Quote by British Historian Tom Holland / Bangkok Post

10. When was the first-ever soccer game played.

The first official game of soccer between two competing teams was played on November 6, 1869. The teams were Rutger and Princeton.

11. The first game was between two teams playing different sports.

During Rutger’s home game, the rules of Association football were used, resulting in a grandiose victory for them. The following game on the Princeton ground was played by the rules of “rugby-football” at the time and the result was quite the opposite.

Then twenty-five of the best players in college were sent up to Brunswick to combat with the Rutgers boys. Their peculiar way of playing this game proved to Princeton an insurmountable difficulty; …. Two weeks later Rutgers sent down the same twenty-five, and on the Princeton grounds, November 13th, Nassau played her game; the result was joyous, and entirely obliterated the stigma of the previous defeat.

Typical Forms of ’71” by the Princeton University Class of ’72, 1869

12. The oldest soccer association in the world.

The FA (“Football Association”) is the oldest soccer organization in the world. It’s the governing body of association football in England and was created in 1863.

13. The FA had its first meetings in a bar.

The first meeting of the FA was held on the morning of 26 October 1863 at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street, London. During these meetings, the rules of Association Football were created.

freemasons tavern
The Freemasons’ Tavern where soccer rules were created / Wiki Commons

14. The world’s oldest soccer competition.

The oldest soccer competition in the world is the FA Cup and it started in 1872. It was created by Charles W. Alcock, an important instigator to make soccer popular. The FA Cup was played between 15 English teams in a “sudden-death” format.

15. How was the FA Cup created?

By 1871, Charles W. Alcock was not just a soccer player, but also the secretary of the FA. He was the one to instigate the creation of the FA Cup by making the following request at one of the meetings:

That it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete.

16. Alcock didn’t just create the FA Cup.

He also won it! The first FA Cup ever played was won by “Wanderers Football Club.” They defeated Royal Engineers in what was the first FA Cup final in 1872 and Alcock was captain of the winning team.

17. When was the first international soccer game held?

The first-ever international game took place on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, Scotland, which is actually a cricket ground. It was a game between Scotland and England and ended in a 0-0 draw. About 4,000 people were able to witness this historical moment.

Hamilton Crescent / Famous2005 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

18. The first soccer league.

The first football league was also created in England, most specifically in Birmingham by the director of Aston Villa named William McGregor. This happened in 1888 and the league initially had 12 teams from the Birmingham area and North England.

19. FIFA is the international governing body of soccer.

One of the most interesting facts about soccer history is that the international governing body wasn’t founded in the country the game was invented, but in France. FIFA refers to Fédération Internationale de Football Association and is the governing body of association football worldwide. Its headquarters are in Zürich, Switzerland.

20. Start of the FIFA World Cup.

The largest international sports competition is the FIFA World Cup. This soccer competition is held every 4 years and nearly 200 countries compete in qualifying rounds to be included in the tournament. It all started in 1930 when it was first held in Uruguay, and the home country was also the winner.

Team of Uruguay in 1930, the first World Cup winners / Wiki Commons

21. The FIFA World Cup skipped 2 years.

A black page in human history caused the World Cup to be skipped in the years 1942 and 1946. The second World War was the reason for this.

22. The FIFA World Cup has many fans tuning in.

It’s hard to judge how many people really watched the games, but a study conducted by FIFA and Kantar Media has shown that a whopping 3.2 billion watched the games of the 2014 World Cup at home. Over a billion people watched the ultimate climax of the tournament, the final of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Even higher numbers are estimated for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

France won the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 / Source

23. Soccer is an Olympic Game since 1900.

The first time soccer was included in the Olympic Games was in the year 1900 in France. The remarkable thing about this event was that the loser was certain to receive a medal as only 3 teams competed in it and there were only 2 games played. Great Britain won the final against France, and Belgium “won” the bronze medal as losers.

24. Soccer laws can change.

New technology and suggestions to improve the game are sometimes applied to modify the existing laws of soccer. A few examples of this is the use of goal-line technology to determine whether or not the ball has crossed the line, and the VAR (video assistant referee), a team of additional referees watching a video of the game who can ask the referee on the pitch to revise his decision by rewatching a play during the game.

Referee rewatching play / SounderBruce / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

25. Who is the best player in soccer history?

We didn’t want to include this because it’s not a fact. But in our opinion, Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona is the best player in soccer history. And we’re not the only ones who think so. His magical feet will be remembered by everybody who saw him play, forever.

A familiar sight during a Barcelona game / Source

Leave a Comment