The game we know today is the result of centuries of fine-tuning. What we see now is the final product but, the game went through several modifications for it to be uniform on a global level.
We take the rules of football for granted but aspects of football like penalties, corners, offsides, and even referees took years to establish themselves as a permanent fixture on the football pitch.
So, let’s dive deep into the history of football and understand the humble beginnings and origin of it, that paved the way for this beautiful game to grace its presence on the entire world.
Initially, it was impossible to tell the difference between the two teams just on their shirts, and it would take even longer until numbers were added to the players’ shirts. Also, the size of the playing area and the number of players involved might vary a lot.
So, nothing was fix so far.
To change that, the first attempt to unify the game was made in 1848. A meeting was held in Cambridge. By the end of the meeting, certain rules were established now known as the Cambridge rules.
However, a debate would later spark on how the game should be played. Some schools played with their hands and some exclusively with their feet. Later on, in 1863, a distinction between rugby and football was made to solve this issue.
The early development of the rules would also make the game less violent. Up until 1863 kicking an opponent down was considered part of the game and was a common practice.
At this point (1863), the game was shaping up to be somewhat uniform, but it was far from the levels we see today.
A] No crossbar was used and the goal was not specific to a limited height.
B] If a player did catch a high ball, he was rewarded a free-kick.
C] If the ball crossed the sideline, the player that first got the ball was rewarded the throw-in.
D]Throw-ins were made with one hand.
Let’s talk about how some of the key elements of football came into existence the way we see them today.
1] The Referee:
There were no referees on the field until 1871! Instead, the captains of both teams were tasked with maintaining order. It was strictly a gentleman’s sport. Nonetheless, when the FA Cup was established in 1871, it was decided that if the captains of each team couldn’t agree, two referees would make the decision. Seven years later, the players and spectators could hear the referee using a whistle for the first time.
2] The Goalkeeper:
Only from 1909 did the goalkeeper start wearing a unique kit and even then, the rules regarding gathering the ball were very loose. Only three years later was the rule of holding the ball in one’s hands were restricted to the box.
Corner-kicks were introduced in 1872. In 1924, it was decided that a corner kick was allowed to go straight into the goal.
Penalties were introduced in 1891 and the properly designated penalty spot came into existence in 1902.
It was only until 1970 that a penalty shootout was incepted, to decide who wins when the match results in a draw.
There was a lot of confusion regarding this rule that led to its definition being changed many a times. But the first change happened in 1907 and stated that a player could not be offside in his half. In 1921, another rule was added to make life easier for the attackers by making it impossible to be offside on a throw-in.
So, this is how the major rules of football were incepted and this is how we enjoy the game today. After years and years of tweaks and changes!