Football is the name given to a number of different, but related, team sports. The most popular of these world-wide is association football (also known as soccer). The English word “football” is also applied to American football, Australian rules football, Canadian football, Gaelic football, rugby football (rugby union and rugby league), and related games. Each of these codes (specific sets of rules) is to a greater or lesser extent referred to as “football” and sometimes “footy” by its followers.
These games involve:
a large spherical or prolate spheroid ball, which is itself called a football.
a team scoring goals and/or points, by moving the ball to an opposing team’s end of the field and either into a goal area, or over a line.
the goal and/or line being defended by the opposing team.
players being required to move the ball mostly by kicking and — in some codes — carrying and/or passing the ball by hand.
goals and/or points resulting from players putting the ball between two goalposts.
offside rules, in most codes, restricting the movement of players.
in some codes, points are mostly scored by players carrying the ball across the goal line.
in most codes players scoring a goal must put the ball either under or over a crossbar between the goalposts.
players in some codes receiving a free kick after they take a mark/make a fair catch.
Many of the modern games have their origins in England, but many peoples around the world have played games which involved kicking and/or carrying a ball since ancient timesWhile it is widely believed that the word “football” (or “foot ball”) originated in reference to the action of a foot kicking a ball, there is a rival explanation, which has it that football originally referred to a variety of games in medieval Europe, which were played on foot. These games were usually played by peasants, as opposed to the horse-riding sports often played by aristocrats. While there is no conclusive evidence for this explanation, the word football has always implied a variety of games played on foot, not just those that involved kicking a ball. In some cases, the word football has even been applied to games which have specifically outlawed kicking the ball
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 knownDocumented evidence of what is possibly the oldest activity resembling football can be found in a Chinese military manual written during the Warring States Period in about the 476 BC-221 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 was 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. 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.
The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of annual Shrovetide football matches throughout Europe, particularly in England. The game played in England at this time may have arrived with the Roman occupation, but there is little evidence to indicate this. Reports of a game played in Brittany, Normandy, and Picardy, known as La Soule or Choule, suggest that some of these football games could have arrived in England as a result of the Norman Conquest.
An illustration of mob football.These archaic forms of football, typically classified as “mob football”, would be played between neighbouring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag an inflated pig’s bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town (sometimes instead of markers, the teams would attempt to kick the bladder into the balcony of the opponents’ church). There is no evidence to support the legend that these games in England evolved from a more ancient and bloody ritual of kicking the “Dane’s head”. Shrovetide games have survived into the modern era in a number of English towns (see below).
The first detailed description of football in England was given by William FitzStephen in about 1174-1183. He described the activities of London youths during the annual festival of Shrove Tuesday:
After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.
Most of the very early references to the game speak simply of “ball play” or “playing at ball”. This reinforces the idea that the games played at the time did not necessarily involve a ball being kicked.
In 1314 , Nicholas de Farndone, Lord Mayor of London issued a decree banning football (in the French used by the English upper classes at the time. A translation reads: “[f]orasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls [rageries de grosses pelotes de pee] in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.” This is the earliest reference to football.
The earliest mention of a ball game that involves kicking was in 1321, in Shouldham, Norfolk: “[d]uring the game at ball as he kicked the ball, a lay friend of his… ran against him and wounded himself”..
In 1363, King Edward III of England issued a proclamation banning “…handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games”, showing that “football” — whatever its exact form in this case — was being differentiated from games involving other parts of the body, such as handball.
King Henry IV of England gives the earliest documented use of the English word “football”, in 1409, when he issued a proclamation forbidding the levying of money for “foteball”.
There is also an account in Latin from the end of the 15th century of football being played at Cawston, Nottinghamshire. This is the first description of a “kicking game” and the first description of dribbling: “[t]he game at which they had met for common recreation is called by some the foot-ball game. It is one in which young men, in country sport, propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air but by striking it and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet… kicking in opposite directions” The chronicler gives the earliest reference to a football field, stating that: “[t]he boundaries have been marked and the game had started.
Other firsts in the mediæval and early modern eras:
“a football”, in the sense of a ball rather than a game, was first mentioned in 1486. This reference is in Dame Juliana Berners’ Book of St Albans. It states: “a certain rounde instrument to play with …it is an instrument for the foote and then it is calde in Latyn ‘pila pedalis’, a fotebal.” 
a pair of football boots was ordered by King Henry VIII of England in 1526. 
women playing a form of football was in 1580, when Sir Philip Sidney described it in one of his poems: “[a] tyme there is for all, my mother often sayes, When she, with skirts tuckt very hy, with girles at football playes.”
the first references to goals are in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1584 and 1602 respectively, John Norden and Richard Carew referred to “goals” in Cornish hurling. Carew described how goals were made: “they pitch two bushes in the ground, some eight or ten foote asunder; and directly against them, ten or twelue [twelve] score off, other twayne in like distance, which they terme their Goales”. He is also the first to describe goalkeepers and passing of the ball between players.
the first direct reference to scoring a goal is in John Day’s play The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green (performed circa 1600; published 1659): “I’ll play a gole at camp-ball” (an extremely violent variety of football, which was popular in East Anglia). Similarly in a poem in 1613, Michael Drayton refers to “when the Ball to throw, And drive it to the Gole, in squadrons forth they goe”. The word “football”, when used in reference to a specific game can mean any one of those described above. Because of this, much friendly controversy has occurred over the term football, primarily because it is used in different ways in different parts of the English-speaking world. Most often, the word “football” is used to refer to the code of football that is considered dominant within a particular region.
Globally, and not necessarily in native English speaking countries, the word “football” usually refers to association football as this is the most widely played code of football. The name “soccer” (or “soccer football”) was originally a slang abbreviation of association football and is now the prevailing term in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where other codes of football are dominant.
Of the 45 national FIFA affiliates in which English is an official or primary language, only three (Canada, Samoa and the United States) actually use “soccer” in their organizations’ official names, while the rest use football (although the Samoan Federation actually uses both). However, in some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, use of the word “football” by soccer bodies is a recent change and has been controversial.