Soccer has become recognized as the international sport of choice for most advanced countries. How did this sport become so popular and what are some of the significant events or history that brought this sport to such worldwide acceptance and significance?
Soccer can be dated back to around 5000 BC. It has been recorded in some form or another in China, Egypt, Japan and Greece.[i] Capturing the more recent Greatest events will help us understand the worldwide acceptance of this sport.
It was Eton College of England that first established rules for soccer. By 1830, soccer was firmly established in England and by 1848, the Cambridge Rules were adopted across all forms of educational schools in England. It was certainly a national sport at this time. By 1869, the rules banned the handling of the ball.[ii] It was the British sailors, trade merchants and British soldiers that brought the sport to various parts of the globe during British imperialism.
The European countries such as Germany and Austria gravitated towards England while several countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay established it in South America. By 1904 The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was established and organized the first world cup in 1930.
As the sport became more and more internationally accepted, the potential for disasters increased due to large crowd gathering. At least 15 disasters have been recorded that were the result of crowds of people rushing through gates, fans rushing out to protest a referee call and the collapse of older stadiums. [iii] Fans were crushed from walls breaking down to people stampeding. These were in the last 100 years.
The first televised event for soccer occurred in 1938 when BBC filmed the First English FA Cup Finals. However, it was not until 1958 that worldwide television coverage occurred with the filming of the World Cup. Action Replay and video tape recordings were officially started in 1966.
In 1977, FIFA introduced the World Youth Tournament with a name change four years later to World Youth Championship. It was for players under 20 years of age. The U-16 World Tournament, introduced by FIFA in 1985 became the Under 17 World Championship in 1991. China was host to this initial event. During this same year, 1991 the first women’s world championship was held in China and won by the United States. In 1999, this Woman’s World Cup Final was attended by over 90,000 fans, played in Los Angeles and over 1 Million television viewers. It was the largest sporting event for woman up to that time, where the United States again beat China. This event alone put women’s sports in general on par with men’s sports.
The first World Cup that was played in the United States occurred in 1994 and the very first World Cup Final to be decided on penalties only resulted because of a missed final kick that went into where the fans were sitting.
Some of the Greatest Players
Edson Arantes do Nascimento who played from 1956 through 1977, was an exceptional team player, but also managed to score 760 goals. His nickname was Pele and was renown for his ability to dribble and strike the ball.
Diego Armando Maradona, who played from 1976 to 1997 was best known for his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. Somewhat of an individual rogue player, the downside to his career was his testing positive for ephedrine in 1994. It was a very sad time for him and soccer in general.
Christiano Ronaldo, managed before the age of 28 to score 400 goals during his career. He did this as recently as January 2014, since joining Real Madrid.
Due to the brevity of this article, the list of soccer greats over the years would fill books and books. This was just to give you a feel for the sport, the history and some of the players.
Soccer verses American Football
It has always been a consideration in the United States of the popularity of International Soccer verses American football. There are articles upon articles discussing this from many points of view. However, to make the claim that American Football is more popular in America than Soccer is not even a valid comparison. It is two completely different sports that should not even be compared.
Mainly because soccer is a foot sport only and American football is a hand sport. Secondly, international soccer has achieved the status of bringing countries together, where American football will never reached this status. So even though American football is high on Americans mind soccer is still a sport played in America at all levels and ages.