Many sports can trace their originals back through the decades, and even centuries to when they were first played, but whether we can say any specific sports were 'invented' would imply that some person or persons sat down and literally drew up a blueprint from scratch on how to play the game. Rather than that scenario, in the case of many sports, including soccer, it might be more accurate to say that they were developed, rather than invented.
That is particularly true with soccer, which has seen many changes over the years, and even to this day, there are plans for further evolution, particularly with respect to the use of technology. However, to fully appreciate soccer as it is today, we should look back to its earliest origins, its advances through the years, and its evolvement to becoming the world's most popular sport.
It's a Matter of Definition
It is often the case that when it comes to determining from who, or where, a sport originated, there will be more than one claim, and soccer is no different. The problem exists because it really depends on how you define the point at which a sport came into existence.
One definition might be that it was when the game first became an organized sport, in which case England has a very reasonable case to be declared the inventors of the sport in the 19th century. The problem with this definition is that it is highly unlikely that nobody in the history of the human race until then had never before thought to kick a round object with their feet. Of course they did, and there are stories which date back as far as 2500 BC to show evidence of this.
So, rather than pinpoint any one individual we'll simply outline as much of the history of soccer as we know and allow you to be the judge of who invented soccer while bearing in mind what we said earlier about the difference between invention and development.
The Early Soccer Games
There is no doubt that there is enough evidence to accept that in ancient times games involving a ball being kicked around were played. We are talking here about civilizations that include Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and the Chinese. Of these four it is believed that the Chinese game of cuju bore the closest resemblance to what we would recognize as soccer today. It is also what soccer's governing body, FIFA identify as the earliest form of the game.
Cuju can be seen depicted in ancient drawings from the Han dynasty of 206 to 220 AD, which shows men, women, and children kicking a round object with the intention of kicking it through a hole in a net. This was first played by military personnel but soon spread to civilians, especially those among the upper classes.
The ball used tended to be stuffed full of bird feathers but by 650 AD the balls were then filled with air. Other changes included a goal post in the middle of the field, and by the 10th century, there were even leagues set up for competitive matches between teams. The top cuju players became highly paid professionals and the game started taking on a commercial aspect, which when we consider what soccer is today, it is clear that cuju had more similarities than just the ball.
Through the Centuries
There are plenty of references to sports that involved kicking a ball, and the word 'football' is used in several of them. Most of them originate from countries in Europe such as France, Scotland, and England. From the 13th century through the next two or three centuries there seems to have been a love-hate relationship with some instances of the game being banned.
It is also claimed when King Henry IV of England proclaimed that money could not be levied for 'foteball' in 1409; this it is the earliest recorded example of a word that would ultimately become 'football'.
From Oval Ball to Round Ball
In the 19th century in England, a sport which was becoming very popular was rugby football. The basics of rugby involve carrying the ball by hand and a pass is made by throwing it back to a teammate, so it’s obviously quite different from soccer. Rugby originated at the school of that name, and it was the case that different schools, universities and sports clubs would have their own rules for playing, and these became known as codes.
One of those codes developed into a game where instead of handling the ball, you kicked it, and obviously, the ball used for that code was round instead of oval. In October 1963, a meeting was held in London between several so-called football clubs, and it was at this meeting that the Football Association was formed. Further meetings took place and at the final meeting on 8th December, the 'Laws of Football' were agreed and published as the first set of unified rules for playing 'Association Football'.
An Ever-Evolving Sport With a Constant Presence
While the early days of soccer were very much driven by countries like Scotland and England, the game quickly began to spread across the globe. It was soon apparent that a body to oversee international soccer would be needed and so in Paris in 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA as we know it, was formed. FIFA's role then and now is to act as the governing body of world soccer and also to organize major tournaments such as the World Cup.
However, the laws of the game are not controlled by FIFA, which many people assume is the case. The laws of the game are actually the responsibility of the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The IFAB consists of representatives of the Scottish, English, Welsh, and Northern Irish soccer associations, plus a representative from FIFA.
Not Reinvention, More Innovation
As the British Isles were the pioneers of the game, they have remained its lawmakers, albeit FIFA has a 50% voting share whenever law changes are determined. Nevertheless, a three-quarters majority is required to pass any change so FIFA cannot implement any law changes on its own.
Recent changes have seen the back pass rule, goal-line technology being introduced, and a new law for the kickoff which means the ball can be kicked in any direction. One of the most significant changes is the use of video assistant referees to help the match referee adjudicate on major decisions such as the validity of a goal, the awarding of penalty klicks, and issuing of a red card.