Football: Origins, Paths and New Dimensions

Master's Thesis, 2010

111 Pages, Grade: 1.0


Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Pictures




1. Introduction
1.1 Thesis Structure
1.2 Research Methods
1.2.1 Data Triangulation
1.2.2. Interviews
1.2.3 Photographs
1.2.4 Participant Observation
1.2.5. Case Study

2. Origins of the Football
2.1 The Initial Kick: Prehistory and History of Football
2.2 Bans on the Game
2.3 Modern Football: Britain’s Contribution to the World
2.4 Professionalization of Football

3. The Global Explosion of Football
3.1 From Britain with Love: Football’s First Wave of Expansion
3.1.1 The Colonial World
3.1.2 Africa
3.1.3 Asia
3.1.4 Europe
3.1.5 Latin America
3.1.6 Football Arrives in Colombia
3.1.7 El Dorado
3.2 FIFA and the World of Football
3.3 Football’s Second Wave of Expansion
3.3.1 Joao Havelange in FIFA: The Federation Goes Global
3.4 The Media and the Markets
3.4.1 The Profitable Business of Football
3.5 Football-Related Violence
3.5.1 Hooliganism
3.5.2 Football Related Violence in Colombia
3.5.3 Police and Community Efforts
3.5.4 The British Example

4. The New Dimensions of Football
4.1 Football as a Tool for Development and Peace
4.2 Football and Social Development Networks
4.2.1 The Football for Hope Movement
4.3 Colombianitos
4.3.1 Goals for a Better Life Program
4.3.2 Approach
4.3.3 Community Impact
4.3.4 Methodology
4.3.5 The Mentor Plan
4.3.6. Financing Partners
4.4 The Goals for Peace Project
4.4.1 Introduction
4.4.2 Objectives
4.4.3 Research Methods
4.5 The Goals for Peace Project in Ciudad Bolivar, Colombia
4.5.1 Ciudad Bolivar Background
4.5.2 Geographic Location and Demographics
4.5.3 Social Conditions
4.5.4 Community Initiatives and Participation
4.5.5 Goals for Peace Partners in Ciudad Bolivar
4.6 Activities
4.6.1 Football Training
4.6.2 Seminars and Training
4.6.3 Community Participation
4.7 Results and Analysis
4.7.1 Interaction: Teams’ Successes and Difficulties
4.7.2 The Modules
4.8 Accomplishments Attained
4.8.1 Ability to Coexist and Interact
4.8.2 Gender Roles
4.8.3 Social Inclusion
4.8.4 Leadership Skills
4.8.5 Additional Accomplishments
4.9 Reflections




List of Tables

Table 1: Thesis Structure

Table 2: Significant Developments in the Rules of the Game

Table 3: Evolution of Humanitarian Activities at FIFA

Table 4: The Goals for Peace Project

Table 5: Age, Gender and Strata Distribution Participants Goals for Peace

Table 6: Activities and Objectives Goals for Peace Day

Table 7: Activities and Objectives Goals for Peace Day

Table 8: Goals for Peace Bais City, Philippines

List of Pictures

Picture 1: Safety First

Picture 2: Colombianitos in Action

Picture 3: Girls and Boys Playing Football in Ciudad Bolivar

Picture 4: Goals for Peace Bais City, Philippines


There are many people I would like to thank for their help during the research stages and writing of this thesis. Foremost among these are Colonel Carlos Menéndez from the Colombian National Police, Mr. Jerome Champagne, FIFA director for International Relations, Mrs. Bettina Schulte, program officer for the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and Mrs. Maria Elvira Garavito, director of the Colombianitos foundation, for their valuable input during the interviews I conducted at their respective organizations. For allowing me access to the FIFA library, thanks are also due to Mrs. Marta Mulero. There are a number of other individuals to whom I owe my gratitude: Mr. Alvaro Gomez from the Matiambolumba Foundation and Mrs. Carmenza Trujillo, coordinator for Proseder for their help during the activities of the project Goals for Peace in Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia and to Mrs. Karen Villanueva and her staff as well the Elmaco family for their support in the second Goals for Peace project in the Philippines. I would also like to express my gratitude to the members of the academic body and staff of the EMGS program at the Universities of Leipzig and Vienna, to Dr. Siegfried Mattl for supervising this thesis and to my classmates at both institutions for having contributed to my personal and academic growth as well as to all those who made possible my participation in the Global Studies program. On a personal note, I would like to thank my family for their unconditional love and support and for instilling in me, the important values in life and to Mrs. Jenn Elmaco, for her priceless support in this journey. My final gratitude goes to my guides and to all the people in the football constellation I have come across over the years.


illustration not visible in this excerpt


Keywords: Football History, Football, Globalization of Sports, FIFA, Hooliganism, Football and Business, Sport for Development and Peace, Goals for Peace.

Football’s consolidation as the world’s most popular sport is a result of both the inherent attributes of the game, that is its simplicity and universality, as well as the historical processes that have contributed to the unprecedented expansion of the geography of the sport throughout time. Today, football represents a professional activity, an instrument to mobilize the masses, a profitable business, a focus of violence and unrest and most recently, a tool for social development and peace. Although the sport has undergone very little structural transformation in the last decades, the major development in the world of football has taken place in the new application of the sport as a tool for social change. This has generated a true global social movement encompassing a multitude of actors such as national governments, the private sector, international organizations and NGOs around the issues of development and peace through the power of the sport.  With this background, the purpose of this thesis is two-fold:  1) to provide an overview of the history and evolution of football and to analyze the processes that contributed to its emergence and consolidation as a global phenomenon and 2) to bring to light the recent transformation experienced by the sport as a social movement and as an agent for transformation and change. This part includes the grassroots project “Goals for Peace” in Colombia and the Philippines which aims at assessing the ways and extent to which the sport can be a transformative tool.

Die Einfachheit und die unvergleichliche geographische Verbreitung von Fußball, haben beide dafür gesorgt, dass diese Sportart so berühmt geworden ist. Heutzutage ist Fußball sowohl eine professionelle Sportart, als auch ein Instrument zur Mobilisierung der Menschenmassen, ein wirtschaftlich vorteilhaftes Geschäft, eine Ablenkung von Gewalt, und in letzter zeit auch ein mittel für frieden und Entwicklung. Obwohl sich der Sport in den letzten Jahrzehnten sehr wenig verändert hat, hat er sich als mittel sozialen Wandels entwickelt, was eine sozial-globale Bewegung generiert hat, verursacht durch Regierungen, der Privatsektor internationale Organisationen und NGOs . Der Ziel dieser Diplomarbeit ist wie folgt: 1) einen Überblick über die Geschichte und Entwicklung des Fußballs zu sichern und die Prozesse, die zu ihrer Entstehung und Konsolidierung als globales Phänomen beigetragen zu analysieren und 2) die jetzige Transformation des Sports als soziale Bewegung und als Agent für Transformation und Wandel zu präsentieren. Dieser teil umfasst das Grassroot-Projekt „Goals for Peace “ in Kolumbien und auf den Philippinen, dass den ausmaß der Wirkung von Fußball, als Transformationsinstrument bewertet.

1. Introduction

In the summer of 2014, football’s greatest event and perhaps, the most important sporting gathering in the planet, the World Cup, will be celebrated for the second time in Brazil. While critical voices argue that the billions of Reais spent on the World Cup could have been channeled to solve pressing issues affecting the country today, -such as poverty, lack of infrastructure, crime or education- preparations continue under way to make Brazil 2014, the most memorable sporting celebration ever to have taken place on this side of the globe. Regardless of the economic and social consequences this mega-event will have on the host nation, the vote of confidence granted to Brazil by the international community is before anything else, an acknowledgement of the recent developments and achievements of this nation both within and outside the sporting arena. The consolidation of football whether in Brazil, Africa or elsewhere in the planet, however, is a result of both the appealing nature of the game itself, as well as it is a consequence of the historical forces that have come to play to contribute to the remarkable expansion of the geography of the sport throughout time. On the football side of the equation, simplicity and universality are perhaps the most noteworthy elements that characterize the game. These aspects of the sport have allowed football to cross languages and nations to make football a pastime, a professional activity, a business or even a peculiar way of life often times associated with violence and hostility. Through time, football has transformed itself into a mechanism to join nations and most recently, it has served as a platform for the fight against social injustice and as a tool for development and change. It is the many issues associated with the sport, its universality and simplicity, its appealing nature, the business it has become, the violence and the uncontrollable passions it generates as well as the rich historical processes it embodies, what calls for an study of the beginnings, spread and consolidation of football as the planet’s most favorite sport. In this connection, the purpose of this investigation is to provide an overview of the history and evolution of football and to analyze the processes that contributed to its emergence and consolidation as a global phenomenon. Furthermore, this paper attempts to bring to light the recent transformation experienced by the sport as a social movement and as an agent for transformation and change.[1]

1.1 Structure of the Thesis

Chronologically ordered, this investigation is divided into three sections each dealing with particular issues related to the development and consolidation of football in the global arena (see table 1).  Section one introduces the origins of football in different world civilizations, that is, the prehistory and history of the sport to the advent of modern football in England. This section also deals with the first bans imposed on football through history and which almost led to its disappearance, as well as the earliest attempts to codify the rules of the game. Additionally this section covers the emergence of football as a professional activity. Section two examines the means by which football spread across the globe as well as the main issues affecting the sport in recent times. The chapter “Global Explosion of Football” illustrates how through imperial, educational and trade routes, football became one of England’s most notable export. Emphasis is placed on the arrival of football in Colombia, my home country, and the establishment of the first football clubs in the nation. This section also introduces the work of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) as football’s only governing body and its efforts to consolidate the sport in the international scene. The business side of the sport is also elaborated upon here as one of the most significant issues characterizing football today. Furthermore, this chapter also deals with football-related violence.  In order to address this pressing issue affecting the sport today, interviews were conducted with delegates of the Colombian National Police as well as with members of football clubs in the country and football aficionados on issues related to security at football venues and the phenomenon of hooliganism. The final section introduces the newly conceived concept of football as a tool for social transformation. Chapter Three examines the ways in which football may contribute to the betterment of societies, especially of those suffering from conflict and violence and introduces some of the most notable actors and strategic partnerships in the era of football for change. The last part of this chapter is devoted to Goals for Peace, a sport for peace project conducted in Colombia and the Philippines. Goals for Peace serves as case study to analyze the potentiality of sport as a tool for social transformation.

Table 1: Thesis Structure

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Source: Own Table

1.2 Research Methods

Several research methods were applied in this investigation. Multiple sources of data were used in order to create a triangulation of evidence: books, documentation, archival records and relevant publications by key actors, particularly in the development field, open ended interviews, participant-observation conducted during field work and a case study.

1.2.1 Data Triangulation

Data triangulation has been used as a fundamental application in this research. Triangulation of data, as pointed out by Flick (2009) is a combination of a variety of methods, local and temporal settings, study groups and theoretical perspectives in dealing with a particular phenomenon. This method can also be used to describe the relation between quantitative and qualitative research as well as a strategy to advance the quality of qualitative research. Triangulation was initially conceptualized as a strategy to validating results achieved with individual research methods. The focus of this research strategy, however, has increasingly shifted towards enriching and complementing knowledge and towards expanding and furthering the potential of individual methods. Moreover, triangulation may be utilized as an approach to further expand and complement the possibilities of knowledge produced or obtained with qualitative methods increasing scope, depth and consistency of methodological undertakings. Triangulation means that researchers take diverse perspectives on a chosen issue. These perspectives can be validated using several methods or several theoretical approaches. Furthermore, this approach refers to the practice of combining different kinds of data on the background of the theoretical approach. Equally, the combination of different methods should allow for a surplus of knowledge. That is, triangulation should generate results at several levels which means, this knowledge obtained should extent far beyond the knowledge achieved by the application of one approach alone. However, as Flick points out, triangulation requires more resources and effort thus, the benefit if using this technique must be evident (pp. 444-452).  In this connection, the following sources have been deployed for this thesis:

1. Secondary sources such as books, academic papers and magazine articles and official documents and websites. In this regard, a visit was made to the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) library in Zurich, Switzerland, which holds one of the most extensive collections on football literature in the world. Additionally, special publications by the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace were accessed during the field trip to Geneva, Switzerland in April 2009.

2. Primary sources such as open ended interviews, participant observation and photographs as a way to collect and analyze data.

1.2.2 Interviews

One of the principal methods used was open-ended interview with distinguished people involved in the football constellation. Yin (1984) explains that open-ended interviews expand the depth of data gathering as well as it increases the number of sources of information. Interviews were conducted with the director for international relations at FIFA (see annex 1) and a representative from the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) (see annex 2) located in Zurich and Geneva respectively in April of 2009. In Colombia, interviews were carried out with Coronel Carlos Alberto Melendez in order to address the efforts made by the Colombian National Police to face football-related violence (see annex 3) and with the director and staff of Colombianitos, an organization that promotes social inclusion in the country through sport as a component (see annex 4).  Additionally, football aficionados and fan clubs members were interviewed between February and March of the same year.

1.2.3 Photographs

Photographs are used in this research as a way to present recording of facts and to represent in a holistic manner, the lifestyles and circumstances of people and situations involved in the football constellation. Collier and Collier (1986) indicate that photographs are accurate proof of material reality that can be fitted into diagrams as well as extracted into statistical designs proving in this way, their validity as a research tool (p. 10).

1.2.4 Participant Observation

Participant observation is a research method appropriate for studies in which human meaning and interaction are imperative. As explained by Jorgensen (1989), through participant observation it is possible to depict what is gong on, where and when things take place, why and how they occur and what and who is involved in a particular situation. Participant observation constitutes a form of stressing interpretation and understanding of human existence (p. 12). The methodology of participant observation, for the purpose of this investigation took the form of a case study for which a joint project was developed.

1.2.5 Case Study

Case studies accentuate the holistic inspection of a phenomenon as they seek to avoid the separation of particular components from the larger context to which they are related. As pointed out by Jorgensen (1989), case studies conducted through participant observation attempt to describe a phenomenon that requires intense and exhaustive investigation (p. 19). In this connection, a project was designed to serve as a case study aiming at assessing the viability of football as a tool for social transformation and change. In collaboration with Jenny Lind Elmaco, the research project Goals for Peace was developed in Ciudad Bolivar, Colombia on February 28th and March 7th, 2009 and Bais City, Philippines on August 22nd and 23rd of the same year. The results of the project, mainly of qualitative nature, are thus presented as a joint effort by both researchers. Two main research methods were deployed within case study: open-ended interviews, and participatory observation. In addition, photographs are used as a valuable research tool in interpreting and recording the people and situations involved during the course of the project. With regards to interviews, Yin (1984) explains that open-ended interviews expand the depth of data gathering as well as it increases the number of sources of information. The interviews were conducted with participants in Goals for Peace, both children and adults, during and after the course of activities. Participant observation, on the other hand, provides several advantages as this method combines, according to Denzin (1989b), document analysis, interviewing of respondents and informants, direct participation and observation and introspection (pp. 157-158). Interviews yielded significant qualitative results and therefore, not all results were amended to statistical analysis. This allowed for analytical conclusion to be drawn regarding the assumption that football is indeed a tool for social transformation. However, a few quantitative figures that provided information about the project participants were generated in the form of tables and charts.

2. Origins of Football

2.1The Initial Kick: Prehistory and History of Football

“Whoever invented football should be worshipped as a God”.

Hugo Sanchez

Mexican football player and coach

“The roots of our football tribe lie deep in our primeval past”.

Desmond Morris

British writer and artist

The origins of football can be traced back to almost every major civilization throughout the world. Although the earliest forms of the sport and the rules that applied  may be radically different from the modern practice of our days, the act of kicking a ball -or whatever object that may resemble one- for recreational or ritualistic purposes is, as archaeological evidence suggests, virtually as old as civilization itself. Among complex societies the earliest records of the game come from the Chinese civilization . David Golblatt (2006 ) in his book, “The Ball is Round”, provides a comprehensive history of the game from its beginnings, which he opines most likely to originate in ancient China, to the advent of modern football in England. Caju, which translates kick ball, a game very similar to modern football was widely practiced during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 221 CE). Caju was played using a leather ball filled with feathers or fur and is believed to have emerged as early as the third millennium BCE. There was a marked pitch and two teams attempted to score through the goals located at opposite ends of the field. Kicking was the main means to move the ball around the pitch and, as some accounts suggest, the goal would take the form of two bamboo posts holding a silk net with a small hole in the middle. To score a goal the ball had to pass through the hole. Although the game was widely played by the imperial family, it was particularly popular among army personnel as it became not only a recreational activity, but most importantly a military training element (p. 5). The act of scoring alone suggests the complexity of the game and the mastery the players should have reached to achieve, given the relatively reduce size of the hole, the difficult task of scoring.

Technical and tactical changes in the way the game was played were experienced during the subsequent Tang (618-907 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) dynasties. The players adapted to the lighter and more easily controllable hollow ball which allowed for a more stylized way of playing. The ball would be passed among the members of a team until it reached a designated player who was the only one allowed shooting at the target. The possession of the ball, which meant another chance at shooting, was achieved only if the shooting team was able to keep the ball in the air regardless of whether they had scored or not in their previous attempt. If the ball touched the ground, however, the shooting turn would be passed on to the other team ( Goldblatt 2006, p. 6).

In Japan, a game called Kemari, which resembled the Chinese Caju, was played in medieval times. Although Japanese historians claimed the indigenous roots of the game to go as far back as the sixth century BCE, earliest written records of Kemari date from the twelfth century (Goldblatt 2006, p. 7). The game of Kemari was played in a dirt pitch marked by four trees placed on every corner of the field. Eight players would stand in pairs next to the trees. The ball was hollow, made of deerskin and the game’s objective was trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible and using the trees themselves to bounce the ball. Kemari became a more stylized game than its Chinese predecessor. In fact, the officials in charge of the game would allocate additional points for impressive and innovative kicks. Etiquette and decorum were equally as important in Kemari as the skills and the aptitude shown by the players on the pitch. Kemari became an important hobby of the ruling elite in medieval Japan.  Soon after its appearance, the rules of the game were written down and the first true masters of the game emerged. Houses of Kemari, schools that would teach particular techniques and stiles of playing, developed throughout the empire. The game remained popular and widely played for approximately six centuries. By the time the wave of industrialization hit Japan, Kemari started a rapid decrease both in the popularity of its practice, as well as in importance within the social life of the Japanese ruling elite. In spite of the imperial efforts to keep the game alive Kemari had virtually disappeared by the end of the Second World War (Goldblatt 2006, p. 8).

Indigenous peoples around the world also played their own version of the game. When the colonizers of the new world arrived in present day North America they found the Iroquois and Seneca Indians playing with a ball made of deerskin. Teams of six to team members were chosen to test their skill on the field. The game was played by periods and it consisted of throwing and kicking the ball between stools which served as goal posts. There were apparently few set rules to follow which must have allowed for a great deal of improvisation (Dewey 1930, pp. 736-739).  Football, among the peoples of the Connecticut and Rhode Island tribes was called Pasuckuakohowanog. According to Foulds and Harris (1979) this may be translated as “they gather to play football” ( p. 8). Painting the players’ faces before the game was common which could have meant an association of the game to a war-like activity ( Dewey 1930, pp.736-739).

In Mesoamerican cultures the game was taken into a superior ritualistic stage: Not only was the ball game the center of the political and social life but most importantly it was an earthly representation of the cosmological vision of the highly advanced civilizations that once occupied present day Mexico[2] and Central America.  By playing the ball game harmony and cosmic order were maintained, life was regenerated and the connection with the underworld established. Every time the ballgame was played life itself was sustained and perpetuated, the gods were appeased and the certainty of the future life guaranteed.

Spencer and Wren (2005) point out that although the game was played for many reasons including competition and entertainment it also served as a way to reenact war as practices of human sacrifice[3] were also associated with the ball game. But above all the game was charged with cosmological meaning: The motion of the Sun, Moon and Venus which rise in the sky and sink in the underworld were represented by the trajectory of the ball. The ring through which the ball had to pass exemplified the ways in which the underworld could be accessed. The cosmological relevance of the ball game was recorded in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas. Participants of the ball game were able to recreate the heroic crusade of the hero Twins who had defeated the lords of Xibalba on the underworld ball court. The game itself was an earthly representation of life, death and rebirth. The ball court, the place where theatrical representation of the battle for life took place, was seen as an entry point to the underworld. The most famous and spectacular of these fields known in Mesoamerica is found in the archaeological complex of Chichen Itza. The court is located in present day Southern Mexico and measures 156 meters long and 36 meters wide, almost twice the size of a modern football field (pp. 195-196).

The Mesoamerican ball game was unique in its nature as it was a game of life and death. Moreover, it possessed other characteristics that made this early football ancestor, the only one in its kind in this part of the world. The ball, the most important element of the game, bounced like no other thanks to the mastery of the Mayan artisans but most importantly, due to the materials used in the elaboration of the ball. Galeano (2007) highlights the fascination expressed by the Emperor Charles and his court when conqueror Hernán Cortez bounced a Mexican ball high in the air (p. 20). The Spanish were both delighted and struck by the way the Mesoamerican ball moved and bounced. The answer for such an enigmatic behavior was not the reasoning the Spanish invaders applied to explain the unexplainable that is, sorcery or witchcraft or perhaps, the devil living inside the ball, but rather rubber, a material only to be found, or at least used, in this part of the world. According to Goldblatt (2006), archaeological records suggest that the manufacturing of the ball dates back as early as 1500 BCE thanks to the Olmecs. The ball varied in size between softball and a basketball and like the Mayans, the ball game was played in squares or in large areas of temple complexes. Later, the game spread east to the present days islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and north where the Indian cultures of Arizona took up the Mesoamerican game (pp. 11-12).

The Romans[4] also played an early version of football and it is believed that with the expansion of their empire, the game was introduced to the peoples they conquered. They were particularly attracted to the indoor version of the game which was played in a court called Sphaerista for Expulsum Ludere. This competitive game was characterized by catching, throwing and dodging the ball.  Variations of the game were also played outdoors in fields or Palaestras. (Goldblatt 2006, p.13).

In the British Isles, Sugden and Bairner (1993) point out that folk football emerged approximately a thousand years ago being the game particularly popular among the Celtic tribes in Ireland. Evidence suggests that Celtic tribes may have played a large scale and very violent form of the sport (p. 71). The game was played between two teams formed by innumerable participants, usually members of nearby villages, and consisted of trying to get the ball into a designated area across open fields under a few set rules. (Goldblatt 2006, p.16).

Folk football was also played on continental Europe. Bromberger (1995b) points out that the violent ball game of Soule[5] was being played by the French since medieval times. (p. 276). In Florence, the ball game was called Calcio[6] as it is known today in Italy. Both Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci were enthusiastic followers of the sport. Matches were held in the largest plazas as well as on frozen rivers. Players were allowed to use both hands and feet to manipulate the ball. Calcio was a popular sport not only among ordinary people but it proved to be an attractive pastime among members of the influential Catholic Church: Popes Clement VII, Leo IX and Urban VIII succumbing to the earthly charm of the game played Calcio on the holy Vatican gardens (Galeano 2007, p. 23).

2.2 Bans on the Game

The practice of football, although a game widely accepted and practiced worldwide, has also encountered opposition and resistance especially in its early days. With the exception of the great Mesoamerican cultures, the game generated disbelief and unrest among the ruling elites, resulting in occasions of violent and aggressive practice. Due to both the lack of set rules and organization, the game defied the established order and generated animosity among players, spectators and authorities alike.

In 1314 a decree by king Edward II condemned the game as unruly and uncontrollable: “ Forasmuch as there is there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise which God forbids” (Galeano 2007, p. 22).

In 1349 Edward III classified the game as senseless and stupid and laws to prohibit it were signed by Kings Henry IV and Henry VI in the fist half of the15thcentury (Galeano, 2007, p. 22). Dunning (1994) asserts that between 1330 and 1660 the British authorities issued at least 30 orders prohibiting football. Apart from the argument that the practice of football posed a threat to public order it was argued that the game was causing undesirable effects on military preparedness. It was suggested by the authorities that the people should focus their energies into what they thought would be a more noble and useful activity such as military training (p. 3). Marples (1954) presents a 1365 prohibition act enacted by Edward III which read as follows:

To he Sheriff of London. Order to cause proclamation to be made that  every able bodied man of the said city on feats days when he has leisure has in his sports use bows and arrows or pellets and bolts… forbidding them under pain of imprisonment to meddle in the hurlingof stones, loggats and quoits, handball, football…or other games of no value; as the people of the realm… used heretofore to practice the said art in their sport when by God’s help came forth honor to the kingdom and advantage to the king in his action of war; and now the said art is almost wholly disused and the people engaged in the games aforesaid and in other dishonest, unthrifty or idle games, whereby the realm is likely to be without archers (Cited in Ekblom 1994, p. 6).

Although the game was still practiced by minority groups, the banned imposed on football was successful in suppressing its practice in urban areas. By the eighteen-century football had been replaced by sporting activities such tennis and cricket. Moreover, boxing and horse racing had by then became the sport of the masses as well as the favorite gamblers pastime (Goldblatt 2006, p. 18).

The world was entering into a new era. The global empires were experiencing a rapid transformation affecting every aspect of the lives of millions of people across the globe. The gap between the civilized people and the barbarians became more evident and the European powers of the time consolidated themselves as the model for the rest to follow. In this light, football became the sport of the uncivilized, the barbarians, the ignorant that, due to the lack of clear rules and the absence of an organizational body that supervised the development of the games, appealed to violence as the only arbiter of the vicious encounters. The football pitch had become, in the eyes of the civilized, a battlefield where countless numbers of warriors would defend the honor of their territories. Some of them would not survive the battle to divulge their achievements or to narrate the way in which they made their way to the goal marching across the field while kicking and knocking down enemies they would encounter. For some others, marks and scars left on the body would be the only testimony of the sanguinary battles. Little by little, the game became less practiced and more condemned. But the fervor with which the early players participated in the games would bring back to life the almost extinct practice. It was in England, the place that more ferociously condemned the early sport, where modern football as we know it today was to be born.

2.3 Modern Football: Britain’s Contribution to the World.

Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; football is a gentlemen's

game played by beasts; football (American) is a beastly game played by beasts”.

Henry Blaha

Rugby Player

The transition of football’s early rough and violent form into the almost homogeneous, global sport of our days started in England in the 19th century - a period characterized by numerous cultural and political upheavals particularly in Europe and the U.S. England, the leading industrial and economic global power at that time, was a society in the making. During this period, England was experiencing the multiple economic and political outcomes derived from the advent of the industrial revolution during the late 18th century.  High levels of economic growth as well as an urbanization process never experienced before characterized this era which was also marked by the emergence of a massive working class. New principles aimed at guaranteeing the superior education of Britain’s youth elite were developed to include sports as a crucial component of the country’s educational system. And it was precisely in the teaching institutions where football’s great transformation took place.

At the time when cultural marginalization of football had reached its peak in England, new forms of the game, more suitable to the emerging social conditions of the newly industrialized nation, began to evolve in public schools. Central to this transformation are the processes of the initial writing of the rules of football, the delimitation of the size of the pitch, the reduction of the number of participants and the imposition of restrictions regarding both the duration of the matches and the kind of physical force to be used in the game. From this period of modernization of the game two distinct ways of playing emerged: On the one hand the Rugby style of playing which allowed carrying of the ball. And on the other, the Association Football way which did not permit hand manipulation of the ball (Dunning 1994, p. 10).

Giulianotti (1999) identifies the splitting currents of the game as the students forming the clubs known as the Old Rugbeians and Etonias which favored a hackling and handling game, and the Harrovians which prohibited these actions. The first official football club, Sheffield FC, a team formed by students as well as by the emerging industrial and merchant class adopted the rules of the Harrovians in 1854 (p. 18). Murray (1996), however, points out that the first attempt to establish a standardized set of rules came from a Cambridge initiative in 1848. Representatives of various schools who held a formal meeting in Trinity College were asked to write down their own school’s rules. The “Cambridge Rules” provided the basis for football rules later to be enacted by the Football Association (pp. 4-5).

In November 1863 in a meeting held at the Freemason’s Tavern in central London representatives from eleven teams, among which were the Kennington School, Cristal Palace and Blackheath School, intended to establish, once and for all, a set of definitive rules to govern the game of football. Although the game has been subject to modifications since the year 1863, this historic meeting marked the birth of modern football as we know it today. The Football Association (FA) created during the meeting, came to be the entity in charge of the regulation and development of the game. This development away from Rugby proved to be an irrevocable one: by 1871 the clubs advocating handling and hackling created the Rugby Football Association. The final split between the once-same sports had taken place (Goldblatt 2006, pp. 31-32). The new rules adopted by the FA in 1863, according to Green (1953), marked a decisive development in the homogenization of the game. Among the most significant laws of the FA were these:

1. The delimitation of the size of the pitch. The maximum length of the field should be 200 yards long (168 m) by 100 yards wide (84). The pitch shall be properly marked by flags. The goals shall be defined by two upright posts eight yards apart.
2.  The winner of the toss will have the choice of goals. The game will begin by placing the ball in the center of the field. Members of the opposite team shall not approach within ten yards until the ball is finally kicked off.
3. After a goal is won, the losing team shall kick off and goals shall be changed.
4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal posts.
5.  No player shall carry the ball.
6.  Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed.
7. No player shall take the ball with his hand from the ground while it is still in play.
8. No player should be allowed to wear projecting nails or iron plates on the soil of his boots. 
9. The concept of off side was introduced[7].

(pp. 36-38)

Although rules 5 and 6 clearly marked a considerable development away from the  “Rugby school”, the norms continued to be modified and new ones are introduced to provide the game with the necessary framework to guarantee that it stays true to its roots, while giving football an identity of its own.

The number of players being fixed at eleven on each side was already a familiar development by the 1870’s. However, there were only two officials called empires who were confined to the sidelines of the field. A third official was introduced in the late 1870’s in case of a disagreement between the two empires. In 1881 the third official was to be known as the referee but only until 1881 was he given total control of the game. The compulsory marking of the football field was introduced in 1882 and well as the halfway line to locate both the area in which each goalkeeper could control the ball as well as the kick off point; it was only until 1912 the goalkeeper was restricted to handle the ball within his own area. By 1887 the penalty line was presented and the penalty kick was awarded for fouls committed within this area. The central circle was introduced at the same time to demarcate the necessary distance the opposition team should keep before the initial kick off and after a goal was scored. The size of the ball was stipulated in 1872 to be limited between 27 and 29 inches (68.5 – 73.6). Players’ uniforms also experienced a transformation in the 1870’s. Up until this decade players had based their dressing code on cricket kits which was replaced by shirts of different colors, designs and patters. Shirts were not numbered and goalkeepers did not wear yet a distinct uniform from the other members of his team. Shirt numbers were first used in 1928 and only became compulsory until 1938. Cup designs became popular as they were by then the only way by which players could be distinguished on the pitch by spectators and colleagues. Football boots were made of tough leather often featuring metal toecaps. ( Goldblatt 2006, pp. 33-35).

Having succeeded in developing a homogeneous set of rules for the game, the Football Association consolidated itself as football’s governing body to which every club had to be affiliated.  This great “leap forward” led not only to the spread of football all over Britain but the enormous popularity enjoyed by the sport proved to be a vital factor in establishing a new sporting culture that, all throughout identified itself less with the students and the ruling elites and more with the emergent working class.

The first FA Cup, known as “The Challenge Cup”, a natural way to introduce the game in Britain, was first held in 1871. Golblatt (2006) points out that although fifty teams were qualified as members of the FA to play in the cup, only fifteen due to diverse reasons, entered into the competition. Some teams declined the invitation due to the high costs involved in traveling across the nation to attend the challenge while some others did not go beyond the registration process. The Wanderers, a team composed mostly by upper-class players, was crowned in front of two thousand spectators as the brand-new FA Cup champion. A year later, the Wanderers retained the title when they beat Oxford


[1] Introduction was updated with the occasion of the World Cup Brazil 2014.

[2] The opening ceremony of the 1986 Football World Cup celebrated in the Estadio Azteca of Mexico D.F. presented a multicolor reenactment of the ancient ball game. Today, football is by far in Mexico, as in most of Latin America, the most popular sport.

[3] There are contrasting opinions among researchers of the human sacrifice aspect of the ball game in Mesoamerica. Some authors argue that it was the losers and captives or war who were sacrificed as a ritualistic offering to the gods so that life itself could continue. Other explanations of this practice present the winners of the game as the victims of sacrifice. In this regard, paying the ultimate price was the highest honor a ball player could be bestowed upon.

[4] The comedies of prolific Greek writer Antiphanes contain records of the ball game being played by the early Romans. They argue that Emperor Julio Caesar was fast with both his feet and that Nero was not able to score at all. See Galliano 2007, P.22.

[5] W.B. Johnson in his anthropological writings of 1929 relates the origins of football with an early pagan rite. In his view, it was common for primitive cultures to associate the Sun with a spherical object to represent the “giver of life, the provider for all living beings”. His view is supported by the fact that Soule, the early form of football played in Brittany and Normandy, is the Latin world for Sun. In an earlier hypothesis proposed by E.K.Chambers, football represents not the Sun but rather the head of a beast which the participants of the game have to capture and bury to guarantee successful crops. This practice still survives in Lincolnshire, UK. See Erick Dunning, 1994, P.1.

[6] The ancient game of Calcio is played yearly in Florence during the June Festival where three exhibition matches are held.

[7] The early offside law penalized any attacking player ahead of the ball. This law made it very difficult for both advancing and the passing of the ball. Later the rule was modified so that an attacker was in offside only when positioned in front of the third-last defender. See FIFA website:

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Football: Origins, Paths and New Dimensions
University of Leipzig  (University of Leipzig - University of Vienna)
Global and International Studies
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football, origins, paths, dimensions
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Alexander Cárdenas (Author), 2010, Football: Origins, Paths and New Dimensions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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