Before we start if you want to know everything about Soccer visit FIFA the Worlds Governing Body and read the history of the game. Fifa are the worlds governing body and they have the most comprehensive soccer site anywhere. Covering such things as Beach Soccer.
The modern game of soccer started in England in 1863 over 140 years ago. It has branched out to cover just about every corner of the globe.
It would seem the Far East can lay claim to the oldest recorded accounts of using a ball in a similiar way to a football. A Military manual of the Chinese Han Dynasty dating from 2nd and 3rd centuries BC mentions the exercise of 'Tsu Chu'. Which consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening 30 - 40 cm into a net. another version of this exercise involved the player being attacked at the same time he was forbidden from using his hands to touch the ball or to protect himself. Japan 500 years later sees the introduction of a more civilised game Kemari, it is still played today this is a circular football game, this was not a competitive contest the players have to pass the ball to each other without it touching the ground.
The ancient Greeks played 'episkyros', of which little is known The roman game 'Harpastum' played on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centre line The ball was small and the object was to get the ball over the opponents boundary lines. Trickery was the order of the day and spectators were known to cheer their teams on. Some would say Italian teams haven't changed much.
Despite all the variations of the beautiful game that flourished around the globe it is without doubt the British variation that swept the globe. Having lots of regional variations it still managed to be tidied up and presented as the modern game it has now become.
What hasn't changed much some would say is the nature of the contest. It is understandable why communities get so united behind their team. Previous incarnations of the game in England saw heated contest between villages or towns both fielding as many participants as they could muster and the only rule was you couldn't kill someone. The games went over fields through hedges over and under fences. You could kick, bite, scratch and gouge (very similiar to modern soccer some would say.)
The first game that played for a standardised time was in 1866 between London and Sheffield this lasted for the duration that we have come to know and love of One and a Half hours.
Reputedly Anglo Saxon in origin there the usual legends associated with how the game came to be invented, such as using playing with the severed head of a Danish prince. However there are no recorded facts to support the game even being played in Anglo Saxon times. The french played a form of mob football and it is believed the Normans brought this to England when they invaded.
No sport has suffered so many attempts to ban it than soccer, perhaps this is why it has stayed so popular. Sometimes the punishments were quite harsh yet still people played it. in 1314 the Lord Mayor of London issued a proclamation forbidding football within the city. (Some of us would say London teams are still not playing football.) The punishment was imprisonment. 1331 King Edward III tried to suppress it on the grounds that it was a public nuisance. During the 100 years war between England and France (I was surprised to find it had finished I think some people in France and England think it's still going on.)
The game was frowned upon because it interfered with Archery practice. James I of Scotland in 1424 prohibited Football in Scotland. Obviously none of this worked. However it wasn't all bad Richard Mulcaster head of the famous schools of Merchant Taylor's and St Paul, remarked the game was good for the health and strength and that it just needed refining. He further stated that if you reduced the number of players and brought in someone to 'referee' it the game could be quite useful.
Still Manchester saw fit in 1608 to ban football because so many windows were being broken. To make matters worse the spread of puritanism would see the banning of football on Sundays this would last for 300 years. Despite all this football continued to be played and enjoyed.
The rules were still free and easy that is until the public schools became involved. schools like Charterhouse, Westminster, Eton and Harrow have been credited with giving birth to the type of game in which more depended on the players' dribbling virtuosity than the robust energy required in a scrum. However Cheltenham and Rugby prefered the more rugged game in which the ball could be touched with the hands or even carried. What finally made the game acceptable was when it finally became apparent that soccer cultivated loyalty, selflessness, cooperation, and deference to the team spirit. This led to games becoming an important part of the school curriculum and in fact a complete standing on the head saw football become compulsory. In 1846 Rugby school introduced the first rules for an organised game. These gentlemen were allowed to kick an opponents legs below the knees and carrying the ball was allowed. Fortunately for us soccer nuts Eton, Harrow and Winchester rejected these rules and forbid the carrying of the ball. despite this it is believed that Charterhouse and Westminister Schools who adapted the same style as Eton etc, but they didn't attempt to isolate the style the had adopted instead the formed the nucleus from which the modern game stemmed.
Cambridge Univeristy 1863 was the turning point in the history of soccer a fresh initiative began to provide some uniform standard that would be acceptable to everyone. It was at this meeting that it was decided that the custom of tripping, shin kicking etc couldn't carryon into a civilised game. More importantly it was decided that carrying the ball was not to be allowed, at this point the Rugby group withdrew. This was a start but it wasn't until 26 October the same year in London that 11 London clubs and schools met to clarify the muddle that still persisted. These meetings were to end with the creation of the Football Association and the irreconcilable split with the Rugby group. Within 8 years the FA had 50 member clubs and the first football competition in the world was started the FA Cup.
Glasgow 30 November 1872 saw the first ever international football match was played between England and Scotland The Scottish FA had not been founded yet so the team England played that day was actually the oldest Scottish club team, Queen's Park.
1879 saw Darwin a Lancashire club draw twice against the then Mighty Old Etonians in the FA Cup who finally won through on the third attempt it was reported at the time that two Darwin players the Scots John Love and Fergus Suter received payment for their football talent. This practice soon grew and the FA had to legilise professionalism.
After the English Football Association, the next oldest are the Scottish FA (1873), the FA of Wales (1875) and the Irish FA (1880).
The next countries to form football associations after the Netherlands and Denmark in 1889 were New Zealand (1891), Argentina (1893), Chile (1895), Switzerland, Belgium (1895), Italy (1898), Germany, Uruguay (both in 1900), Hungary (1901) and Finland (1907).