Who invented football? When and where the ball game originated - and what it's got to do with Scotland

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Many people claim modern football was invented north of the border, while some believe the game as we know it started in England - but who is right?

The World Cup kicks off on Sunday, November 20, with 32 teams battling to lift the most famous trophy in football.

And, while Scotland unfortunately failed to qualify, footy fans will still be glued to television screens to enjoy the sporting feast.

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The hype has many fans wondering who actually invented football and where the game originated.

It’s a debate that’s raged on for years, with some believing it began in England and others claiming it all started in Scotland.

So, who invented football?

Here is everything you need to know.

Who invented football?

The Scottish FA Cup winners pose for a photograph in 1888 (Getty Images/Shutterstock)The Scottish FA Cup winners pose for a photograph in 1888 (Getty Images/Shutterstock)
The Scottish FA Cup winners pose for a photograph in 1888 (Getty Images/Shutterstock)

Football is thought to date back as far as 2500 BC, when the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Romans played games involving a ball and feet.

The Chinese game named Tsu-Chu, meaning “kicking the ball”, is very similar to the modern-day football game and was the first to not allow hands.

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It involved kicking a small leather ball into a net, which was strung between two bamboo poles 30 feet in the air.

While you were not permitted to touch the ball with your hands, using your feet and other body parts was allowed.

Records of Tsu-Chu being played date back thousands of years to the Han Dynasty, between 206 BC and 220 AD.

This particular style of playing a game with a ball, with a focus on the feet, might have subsequently spread throughout the world.

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Was the game invented in England?

However, many people claim that football as we know it today actually started in England.

There are records of people kicking around a pig’s bladder in villages in the 9th century.

And during the medieval period, games were played in towns that involved rival squads violently playing against each other.

This recreational sport was known as “folkball” or “folk football”. The aim of the game was to place the ball in a designated area - through kicking, throwing or carrying - which would result in a point being scored.

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In contrast to the modern game, though, this would often entail a distance of a few miles between scoring places, and it was also played by huge numbers of people with varying rules.

The game was eventually banned by authorities in the 14th century due to the “great noise” it produced.

The ball game was then taken up as a winter sport in public schools, where it is thought the game began to be standardised when rules and tactics were introduced.

The first football clubs then emerged in England in the 19th century, although the game still resembled rugby more than modern football.

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But this was ironed out when, in 1863, the English Football Association was formed.

It brought together the different codes, rules and systems used across the country for play.

The first FA Cup game was played in 1872, and players began to be paid by their clubs.

Clubs continued to join the FA, with the number reaching 128 by 1887, and the English Football League was formed in 1888 by then-Villa director William McGregor.

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Did football actually originate in Scotland?

Meanwhile, some north of the border insist that it was the Scots that invented football.

Indeed, people in Scotland may have been playing the modern ball game for hundreds of years, according to leading historian Ged O’Brien, who is the founder of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park.

Mr O’Brien has claimed that football originated in Scotland, saying today’s “passing and running” version of the game has been played in the country for 500 years.

Clan members played it in churchyards in the north of Scotland and then brought the game to Glasgow in the 1860s when they founded Queen’s Park Football Club, who played at Hampden Park, the historian told The Scotsman in an interview.

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He said: “The genius of Scots over the last 500 years and particularly the clan system is what gave us football.

“Football is Scotland’s game. They have been playing passing and running for hundreds and hundreds of years mostly in churchyards after the Reformation where they flattened all the gravestones.

“Glasgow became the 4th largest city in Europe and everybody from Scotland flooded in including all the guys from Aberdeenshire and Inverness with their passing and running game and they set up Queen’s Park Football Club.

“No matter where you go, if you are watching football you are watching a game that came out of Scotland 500 years ago and I think that’s the greatest thing that Scotland’s got.”

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The Scots then took the game to England and the rest of the world, according to Mr O’Brien.

Football then reached the Netherlands and Denmark in 1889, Argentina and 1893, Chile, Switzerland and Belgium in 1895 and Italy in 1898.

But the creation of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) in Paris in 1904 changed football forever, with the first ever FIFA World Cup held in Uruguay more than a quarter of a century later.

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