19th Century: Britain

Football or soccer as we know it today emerged during the late 19th century in England. At a meeting of the London Football Association in 1863, the game was split between “rugby football” where handling and carrying the ball was allowed and “association football” where use of the hands was banned. The FA established the first set of rules at a time when the game was played primarily in private schools and universities.

Soon after, amateur competition grew popular among British blue-collard workers. The FA Cup, an annual tournament first organized in 1871, sparked massive interest in football throughout Britain. The tournament which is still played today, starts off with a large pool of teams and climaxes with the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in London. Working-class people followed, participated and often bet on matches.

After four years of debate, in 1885 the FA reluctantly recognized the legitimacy of professional players. Early professional footballers were paid little more than the average workers who would pay to watch them. In 1888, 12 clubs from England founded the Football League, the first professional league.

The first international football match was played in Glasgow, Scotland on 30th of November 1872 when an English all-star team met its Scottish counterpart. England played in the 1-1-8 formation, whereas the Scots were known for passing the ball really well. According to football historian Ged O’Brien “Scotland was a more communitarian and egalitarian place than England” and this was supposedly reflected in their game. The match ended in a scoreless draw, but remains historically significant. Many Scottish footballers were later signed by English clubs.

The first international match was a friendly played at West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Glasgow in front of only 3,000 spectators.

Updated: June 23, 2016
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