Monday, March 4, 2024

Football’s Dark Journey

Written By Maya Ameen (Grade 8)


Have you noticed how a game like football can change the fate of a country and the hearts of its citizens? In the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi won the third FIFA world cup for his country and many of his fans celebrated in their stadium seats and on their sofas while watching the match from home. 

But what everyone may not know is that there is a dark and mysterious journey this sport has travelled through leaving marks on human history.

Part 1 – Do or Die

Around 2000 years ago, two teams of Aztecs played a game of Tchatali. In this game, the aim was to get the spherical-shaped rock into a loop and win the game. It might look easy to you, but if you lose as the captain of the team, then you may have to run for your life. By the rules of the game, the losing team’s captain will be sacrificed to the deity.

Loop they should put the rock ball into | Image Courtesy – Britannica

Part 2 – One game, many fans

Many civilizations including the Chinese used to play ‘Cuju’ with a ball made of leather and stuffed with feathers. This is not used for recreation but to maintain its army and to keep them fit and strong. In Rome and Greece, historians have various sources to believe they played this ball game as a recreation.

Miniature painting of kids playing cuju | Image Courtesy – Ancient Pages

Part 3 – The Abolishment

Now, let’s go a bit west and travel to the late 12th century, the locals played a game called folk football in Great Britain and the sport was getting famous. This rule of the game is to not only kick the ball but also punch the ball with your fists. However, this gave rise to violence, and damage to oneself and public property. There was also no governing body to look after these problems, so they abolished this game.

Folk Football | Image Courtesy – History of Soccer

Part 4 – Rejoice 

In the 17th century, the government unabolished football. There was rejoicing but there were many challenges that people faced, especially the young kids of those times.

Part 5 – Chaos and Confusion

As the sport helped in team coordination and encouraged fitness among young people, it was introduced to schools. Each school had its own rules. Let me explain with an example.

In your school named ‘ABC’, you are not allowed to hold the ball with your hands except the goalkeeper. You play a match with another school named ‘XYZ’ and they are allowed to run with them holding the ball. There would be so much chaos and confusion, wouldn’t it?

Part 6 – Recreation to Sport 

In 1848, fed up with too many unorganised ways of playing this game, four undergraduate boys came together at Cambridge University and discussed this issue. They drafted eleven rules on a piece of paper and nailed it to a nearby tree on their campus. This is famously known as ‘The Cambridge Rules’. One significant rule is that holding a ball with your hand is strictly forbidden except for the goalkeeper. They also finalised the shape and size of the ball. With this began the ‘Modernisation of Football’ and the separation of football (a.k.a soccer) from its cousin game ‘rugby’. Many other rules were drafted to create the game we know today. 

Half of the world was colonised by the British and they carried the game with them increasing its popularity. This was famous especially for the working class after a week of hard work at their workplace.

Cambridge Rules | Image Courtesy – Cambridge Special Collections

Students who made a base of the Cambridge rules | Image Courtesy – Daily Mail

Part 7 – Clubs and Tournaments 

Various clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal were formed. In 1872, the first international match between England and Scotland took place which ended in a draw.

In 1883, the first international tournament took place and had four national teams: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Finally, in 1904, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) was founded. During the winter in Uruguay, the first FIFA world cup took place from the 13th to the 30th of July and the winners were crowned in Uruguay as the first FIFA world champions.

Image Courtesy –  Inside Sport

Featured Image Courtesy – FirstSportz



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