A simple ball, some friends and a field – these are all the ingredients for the world’s most popular team game. Whether it’s the dazzling pace of Erling Haaland or the unstoppable power of Kylian Mbappe, football players are always improving and pushing boundaries. Whether you are watching or playing, football is a great way to spend an afternoon.
But this beautiful, simple and universal game has a gruesomely violent and hugely interesting history. It is the story of how a peasant pastime grew into a multi-billion industry, a sport that has shaped global culture and influenced national politics.
Football is played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. Each player must use his feet or his head, but cannot use his arms and hands unless he is the goalkeeper. The object of the game is to score more goals than your opponents. To do this, you must pass the ball between the players, either running with it or throwing it to a teammate.
The game originated in England in the 19th century when private schools needed some form of team activity for their pupils after lessons. The game spread quickly and developed a number of variants. One such development was the invention of a “T” formation with a quarterback, halfback and fullback, each responsible for blocking, and wide receivers who would catch the ball thrown by the quarterback.
By the late 18th century, aristocrats and members of the middle classes were also starting to organize matches, often in collaboration with local publicans who provided prizes in the form of hats. This was the beginning of organized football as we know it, with rules, leagues and professional clubs emerging.
During the 20th century, football’s popularity continued to grow around the globe. It made its official Olympic debut in 1908 and by the turn of the century FIFA had expanded to include more than 200 member nations.
One of the biggest factors in this growth was the emergence of television, which led to the need for uniforms and the introduction of a system of player numbering in the 1960s. Today, uniforms are designed to reflect the team’s identity and to allow easy identification of players by referees.
Besides the obvious physical challenges, football requires considerable mental and tactical skills. To win, players must be aware of the whole field at all times and plan their moves in advance. They must also be prepared to improvise when faced with unexpected events or by opposing players who are making good use of the ball. Moreover, they must constantly keep in mind the limited amount of time they have to move the ball forward, and they must avoid being caught by the defense. If a player commits a serious offense, the referee may show him a yellow or red card, which means that he must leave the field immediately. The team which wins the most points after four quarters of play is declared the winner.