Sunday, February 25, 2007



Early history
Throughout the history of mankind, the urge to kick at stones and other such objects is thought to have led to many early activities involving kicking and/or running with a ball. Football-like games predate recorded history in all parts of the world, and thus the earliest forms of football are not known.

Ancient games
Documented evidence of what is possibly the oldest activity resembling football can be found in a Chinese military manual written during the Han Dynasty in about the 2nd century BC. It describes a practice known as cuju, which involved kicking a leather ball through a hole in a piece of silk cloth strung between two 30 foot poles.

Kemari being played at the Tanzan Shrine, Sakurai, Japan.Another Asian ball-kicking game, which may have been influenced by cuju, is kemari. This is known to have been played within the Japanese imperial court in Kyoto from about 600 AD. In kemari several people stand in a circle and kick a ball to each other, trying not to let the ball drop to the ground (much like keepie uppie). The game appears to have died out sometime before the mid-19th century. (It was revived in 1903, and it can now be seen played for the benefit of tourists at a number of festivals.)

Mesoamerican ballgames played with rubber balls are also well-documented as existing since before this time, but these had more similarities to basketball or volleyball, and since their influence on modern football games is minimal, most do not class them as football.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman writer Cicero describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber's shop. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a team game known as "επισκυρος" (episkyros) or pheninda that is mentioned by Greek playwright, Antiphanes (388-311BC) and later referred to by Clement of Alexandria. These games appears to have resembled rugby.

There are a number of references to traditional, ancient, and/or prehistoric ball games, played by indigenous peoples in many different parts of the world. For example, in 1586, men from a ship commanded by an English explorer named John Davis, went ashore to play a form of football with Inuit (Eskimo) people in Greenland.[2] There are later accounts of an Inuit game played on ice, called Aqsaqtuk. Each match began with two teams facing each other in parallel lines, before attempting to kick the ball through each other team's line and then at a goal. In 1610, William Strachey of the Jamestown settlement, Virginia recorded a game played by Native Americans, called Pahsaheman. In Victoria, Australia, indigenous people played a game called Marn Grook ("ball game"). An 1878 book by Robert Brough-Smyth, The Aborigines of Victoria, quotes a man called Richard Thomas as saying, in about 1841, that he had witnessed Aboriginal people playing the game: "Mr Thomas describes how the foremost player will drop kick a ball made from the skin of a possum and how other players leap into the air in order to catch it." It is widely believed that Marn Grook had an influence on the development of Australian rules football (see below).

These games and others may well go far back into antiquity and may have influenced later football games. However, the main sources of modern football codes appear to lie in western Europe, especially England.

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