A foot and his soccer ball. (Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports)

Happy 150th Birthday, Soccer!!!

A long time ago, in a country far, far away, a group of men gathered. They met in the Freemason’s Tavern in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. It was the fifth meeting of its kind; the members of the Football Association were trying to finally establish a standard set of rules for the game called football. That night, on December 8, 1963, became one of the most important nights in soccer history, as resulted in the birth of modern soccer.

Many nations have some kind of claim as to where soccer began. Greece, Rome, Mexico, Japan, China, and many others all have shown that football, or some more basic form of kicking a round(ish) ball, began in their country. However, it can not be considered a game until it abides by a set of rules.

Several times before 1863 there were attempts at composing a list of laws that all players must follow, but never did they stick. The Football Association created the basic rules that we know today including the rule that a player could not touch the ball with his hands, therefore splitting itself away from rugby in one sentence.

The offsides rule was slightly different than what we play by now. Back then the game was less about the beautiful pass and more about the abrupt sense of charging and dribbling. There was very slim chance of two players collaborating; it was considered less manly. The original rule for offsides stood as “When a player has kicked a ball, anyone of the same side who is nearer to the opponent’s goal-line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in anyway whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until he is in play.” TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): There was no such thing as a forward pass. A modification was made in 1866 such that a forward pass could be made as long as the player and the goal-line held three or more opposing players, which is one more than the current standard.

Formations or tactics weren’t even a thought to the players of the day, or for all of history. Soccer so far had been a chaotic sequences of mad scrambles and heavy ambushes that resulted in a sloppy, brutal game with little to no order. As the rules began to spread throughout England, more and more clubs started to have certain players stay back and protect against the oncoming onslaught of opponents, welcoming the birth of the defenders and midfielders.

From there, the game found it’s way into every corner of the World, where it is now understood better than any other language.

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I’ll admit, that ended somewhat suddenly. The truth of it is though that the history of soccer is long. Libraries have been written about the birth and rise of soccer. The players, coaches, and personalities are all documented in some page of a book if you look hard enough.

My research into soccer history began when I took up the mantle of editor here at the blog, and much to my surprise I discovered that it was the 150th birthday of the global game. That was eleven days ago; I kept pushing this story off because I deemed current MLS stuff more important (and to some, it definitely is), but how many times do you see a sport turn 150 years old? Rarely.

Most of my research came from the book “Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics”, by Jonathan Wilson. I haven’t completed it, so in all honesty I’m still learning a lot about soccer. I can tell you tons about American football, but soccer is an empty hole in my mind that I intend to fill very quickly.

Anyways, Happy Birthday, Soccer!!


Tags: History

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