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By Meredith Bush, Mackenzie Gates, Steven Schmidt, Christy Simmers and Jordan Thomson

Where it all began

The worldʼs most popular sport does not have a clear beginning. The art of kicking a ball around was common in many ancient civilizations. The earliest occurrence of such games dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century BC in China during the Han dynasty. It was named Tsu Chu and was used by the military as a training exercise. The object was to get a leather ball full of fur into a small hole without using hands. Around the same time, the Japanese were also using a ball for entertainment. The game was called Kemari and is still played today. It involves a group of people standing in a circle and passing a ball without letting it touch the ground, similar to modern hacky sack. Players of these two countries actually competed against each other as early as 50 BC, paving the way for the first international competition. These games were among the earliest forms of sport involving the use of a ball.

Other cultures also employed spherical objects for their enjoyment. Ancient Mexican and Central American cultures designed a game with the aim of putting a rubber ball through a mounted ring. The Greek game Episkyros and the Roman Harpastum were both played with two teams and the objective was to pass a ball until it crossed the oppositionʼs boundary line. However, neither game had rules against the use of hands. All of these games were predecessors to the modern football, but the true birth of football occurred in the country of Britain.

"Episkyros of ancient Greece" courtesy of mlahanas.de

When the first game was played in Britain is not very clear, legend holds that after a conquest a group of soldiers decided to kick around the severed head of a Danish prince sometime in the 700s. The primitive forms of the sport in Britain were highly void of rules and often resulted in injury and sometimes death. These games occurred throughout whole villages with the object of getting the ball to a specific target. They were sometimes played on fields reaching many miles long, there were no limitations as to the number of players on each side and biting, punching, and gouging were common practice. It was because of this chaos that the games were nicknamed mob football. The games became extremely popular throughout Britain however not without some major opposition.

The sport saw its first backlash from the Lord Mayor of London in 1314 in which he passed a proclamation banning football within the city with punishment of imprisonment. Then in 1331, King Edward III prohibited the game because it distracted his subjects from practicing important military disciplines. King James of Scotland in 1424 also banned football. Later English monarchs, Henry IV, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I all passed laws against football because of its violent and chaotic nature. Queen Elizabeth I forced perpetrators to serve one week in jail followed by church penance. However, these bans could not effectively extinguish the sport and its popularity continued to grow substantially. By the late 17th century, England had braced the sport and officially sanctioned it.

"Mob football" courtesy of matthewclarksmith.com

However, the standardization of the sport was a slow process. The first attempts to create common rules and such occurred in universities. Eton College wrote the first official rules of the sport in 1815, which later became known as the Cambridge Rules. This standardized certain aspects of football, especially the rule against any use of hands, which officially split football from the sport of rugby. These rules were officially adopted across London clubs and schools after a meeting in 1863 that also established the formation of the first football association. After this, the official sport grew quickly. By the late 1880s the association had 50 members, the first competition, the FA Cup, was established and the first league championship was in the process. From Britain, the sport spread quickly to Scotland, Wales and Ireland with the first international game being played between Scotland and England in 1872.

From here, the sport spread around the world. The Netherlands and Denmark formed associations in 1889, New Zealand in 1891, Argentina in 1893, Chile, Switzerland and Belgium in 1895, Italy in 1898, Germany and Uruguay in 1900, Hungary in 1901 and Finland in 1907. Seven countries in 1904 created the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) designed to unite football associations across nations. The federation now has over 200 members worldwide.

The United States was actually the first country outside of England to have a football club. The Oneida Football Club began in 1862 in Boston. The US did play in one of the first international matches against Canada in 1885. However, it was not until 1913 that the US established its own football association and almost immediately joined FIFA.


Up until now

American football considered by many as the most popular sport in the United States. The majority of other countries would consider the other football (soccer) as their most popular. However, interest in football in the United States has begun to grow drastically over the past few decades. The FIFA World Cup is now widely watched in the United States with 17 million Americans tuned in for the World Cup Final in 2006. The 2010 World Cup Final enticed 24 million Americans to watch the game. This sudden increase of 9 million viewers from one World Cup to the next is no coincidence.

Local football leagues are increasingly available for all age groups across the United States allowing anyone with the desire to play. Even if the kids are playing and the parents are watching, the parents will most likely start to learn the rules of the game and have an appreciation for it. According to a social scientist that studies sports trends, football could suddenly become as popular as baseball and basketball. His reasons that there are at least one footballer in 30 percent of American households and football is the second most popular sport among 12 to 24 year olds. In addition, 33 million Americans consider themselves as avid football fans with 7.2 million supporting Major League Soccer (MLS).

courtesy of shinguardian.files.wordpress.com

Although MLS was not very successful when the league first started in 1996, support has increased in recent years. There are currently 19 teams and the addition of a team in 2016 is being discussed. The United States has 16 teams while Canada has the remaining. MLS has recently also changed some of its rules to make them more like a European style league. Games are now allowed to end in a tie instead of shootouts to determine a winner. In addition, a clock that counts upwards with no stoppages and extra time added on towards the end of each half has replaced the clocks that count down to zero with time stopping for dead balls. Finally, in the early 2000s, MLS started allowing corporate sponsors to place their logos on the front of the playerʼs jerseys. The goal of these collective changes is to make the MLS feel more like the European leagues, to help draw in more fans and to earn more international recognition.

However, the American league is not simply a copy of the Europeans leagues. One notable difference between the two is how league champions win the cup. The MLS has specific qualifications to make the playoff round following the regular season. Once playoffs start the winner advances and the losing team is immediately eliminated from the competition. The European style has a point system in place for their playoffs. Teams are awarded 2 points for a win, 1 point to each team for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. The team with the most points at the end of the regular season is then crowned champion. This system allows teams to comeback from a loss, provides added competitiveness and may make the matches more interesting for fans.

The MLS also tends to spend less money on their teams than European leagues. In 2012 the team with the highest payroll was the football club Barcelona spending $217 million on its players. Real Madrid, who is in the same league as Barcelona, has another large payroll of $195 million. At the start of the 2011 season for the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers were paying $149.8 million. The New York Yankees, are also known for spending top dollar for star players, have a payroll of $197 million. This still falls short by $20 million to the highest paid team in European football and MLS pays even less for their teams because it is not as popular the other sports in the United States. The salaries for football players in America are quite different than their European counterparts. Salaries can range from $20,000 to $6.5 million in MLS. David Beckham is said to be at the top of that pay range. Spending all that money on players will not necessarily win you championships, but bringing in stars with tremendous skill and a high price tag can certainly draw the crowd.


How the game is played

Along with having official rules for the field size, number of players on a field, and durations of games, there is also rules for the size of the football ball and equipment worn. The official rules state the circumference of the ball must be no more than 70 cm and no less than 68cm and must have a weight between 390 and 420 grams. Just as the size of the field changes as a player gets older so does the size of the ball; up until U8 a player must play with a size three ball, U9-U12 is a size four, and U13 and up is a size five. As far as equipment, football cleats, shin guards, and jerseys are required. Players must also not be wearing anything that can harm them or anyone else while playing, most of the time this refers to jewelry.

Fouls and cards are one of the most important aspects to football. The type of foul determines what type of free kick is given. There are two types of kicks, direct and indirect. A direct kick means that a player can shoot the ball at the goal and if it goes in it counts as a goal, for indirect kicks another player needs to touch the ball before it goes into the goal in order for it to count. Depending on how intense the foul is the referee can either give the other team a free kick without giving warning to the offender or he could give him a red or yellow card. A yellow card is a warning and a red card ejects the player from the game and cannot play in the next game.

"Red and yellow cards are punishment for penalties" courtesy of now.msn.com

If you get two yellow cards in one game it leads to a red card. Other rules in football are what determines if a ball is in or out of play. For it to be out of play the ball must be fully across the out of bounds lines. Depending where the ball goes out of bounds the team that did not touch it last either gets a throw-in, goal kick, or corner. Most of the time it is a throw-in; when throwing the ball, your feet must not cross the line, the ball needs to come behind the head of the thrower before thrown in, and the thrower must keep both feet on the ground as the ball is thrown. Corner kicks are a dangerous opportunity for the offensive team to score and goal kicks are kicked on the 6 yard line when the ball goes out of bounds on the same line the goal lays. The last important rule for football is offside; for a person to be offside they have to be behind the second to last player on the opposing teams side of the field. If called offside, the referee stops the game and gives the non-offside team a free kick. A player can never be offside if they are on their half of the field

Football is a game that is constantly progressing world round. As players, teams, and equipment may change one thing that will not is the rules for football. Having such standard rules that never change is what helps allow football to be nationwide.


Suiting up

Football has changed drastically since the 1800s due to the popularity of the sport and advancement in technology and equipment; it has gotten more advanced and durable. The changes mainly occurred in football balls, shin guards, cleats, and jerseys.

During the 1800s, the size of football balls varied widely and were made of animal bladders covered with leather from cows. In 1872, a rule came out that the balls had to be 27-28 inches in diameter which remains to this day. Other than the size of the ball there were not many restrictions in the 1800s; however, in the twentieth century new advancements and rules came out regarding football balls. One of the first things that changed during this period was the weight of the ball; it increased from 13-15 ounces to 14-16 ounces; the circumference needed to be between 27 and 28 inches. Besides the size and weight of the ball, the bladder and material of the ball also changed. The bladder of the ball is what helps hold air in the football ball so it does not get flat; originally they were made from animals but with new technology, the bladder started to be made from strong rubber from inner tubes. The outer layer of the ball was changed to a heavy brown leather. It was cut into 18 different sections and hand-stitched with five-ply hemp. At first the ball worked great, it bounced easier. Overtime however, the players were getting head injuries from heading the ball. Reason being is because football is played in almost all weather conditions when it would rain the ball would absorb the water, making it much heavier and harder for the players to head. Fortunately, the first synthetic football ball was produced in the 1960s. By the 1980s, all leather balls were replaced by the synthetic ball. The difference between the leather ball and the synthetic was that the synthetic did not absorb nearly as much water as the leather ball. The original look of a football ball is known as the Buckminster ball, it has twenty hexagons and twelve pentagonal stitches in black. Today, football balls can be any color and can even have words written on it. Football balls have changed greatly since the 1880s, but there have also been advancements with shin guards.

"World Cup soccer balls dating back to 1970"

Shin guards were first developed in 1874 by Samuel Widdowson. Initially, shin guards were worn outside of the sock and held in place by straps. They were originally made from leather and straw, and then later made from leather and aluminum. By the 1900s they were made from foam and hard plastic which is what they are continued to be manufactured from. Even though the material of the shin guard has changed, the weight and size of it has been changing. They are becoming lighter and smaller, reasons for this is as players get older and more experienced in the game they no longer need as much protection since the players have become skilled enough they will not miss the ball and kick a player in the leg instead. Originally shin guards were made with ankle guards connected to it, this helped add protection if you got kicked in the ankle. Today, shin guards are offered with or without the ankle guards; typically as a football player gets older they tend to wear shin guards without ankle padding. The last change in shin guards is the way they are worn; today they are worn underneath the sock, which helps them stay in place more. Although the changed in shin guards were not as drastic as the balls they are still part of an important change in equipment for football.

"Old shin guards"

The most drastic change in equipment for football was in the cleats. Originally, football cleats were called boots because when it first originated they wore boots that were stud less. This made getting proper footing on the field very difficult so they added nails to the bottom of their shoes for better grip. During the 1800s, cleats took the form of hard leather work boots that had a high ankle cut. During the 1900s, more shoe manufactures were getting involved with creating cleats. Between1940 and 1960 cleats were began being manufactured lighter and were being designed with the mindset of kicking and controlling the ball better. Another thing that changed is the stud of the cleats on the bottom; there were no longer nails on the bottom, instead they created multiple kinds of studs such as rubber and replaceable metal screw-in studs. They also changed the cleat into a lower ankle cut, which helped players run faster. Today there are hundreds of different football shoes; some are cut wide for people with wider feet and some cut narrow. They even have cleats just for women now, as well as an expansion in footwear due to football evolving into a year round sport. Due to this cleats are not just being made for football there are also indoor flat sneakers being made and turf shoes, which are used on artificial grass.

"Old cleats"

The last change in equipment for football is the jerseys. From 1873 to 1901 players had no uniforms, they wore white shirts, pants, and colorful caps or scarves to distinguish between teams. Once the concept of uniforms came into football, players started putting numbers on their jerseys. This was so media, fans, and players could distinguish themselves. Initially, numbers on the back of jerseys were numbered in order. Numbers 1 through 11 were given to the starters, numbers after 11 usually indicated a substitute. By the mid-1900s, the numbers on the back of jerseys no longer mattered. Teams also started to begin wearing lighter jerseys made of synthetic fibers with short sleeves and a V-neck cut. By the late 1900s, logos were added to the jerseys. This helped to distinguish the names of teams but it also created a new selling market for football. Teams began selling authentic jerseys so fans could wear their favorite teamʼs jersey. Also during this time period the jerseys continued to get even lighter and were made from durable polyester. By the 20th century, the traditional look for football jerseys was created; they were short sleeved, made from durable natural fibers and came in a variety of colors.

Changes in football equipment have changed drastically over the past two hundred years. Part of this is due to developing into a nationwide sport, another reason is due to the advancements in technology. Either way, football is continuing to rapidly grow and changes in equipment are almost guaranteed to keep growing.


World's Best stadiums

There are football fields and stadiums located all over the world. But there are seven special ones that truly stick out. Even though these stadiums are located in different cities on different continents, they are all famous due to their ancient architecture, incredible renovations and serving as hosts for very important games. The stadiums all shared similar attributes and they were the first of their kind in the cities they were originally built to attract major crowds and worldwide attention. Even though they each included their own special features like massive seating capabilities and skyboxes, they all captured the essence of incredible football stadiums and thus making them the greatest in the world.

7. San Siro in Italy

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

The San Siro stadium began as a project of AC Milanʼs President, Piero Pirelli. The initial layout was too small but it was then re-designed and officially opened on September 19, 1926. It consisted of four separate stands and could hold 35,000 people. Soon after its opening, however, AC Milan sold the stadium to the city of Milan. In 1939, the stadium was renovated with one fully enclosed tier until it was further expanded in 1955 with a second tier which created room for 85,000 people. In 1965 and 1970, San Siro served as host for the European Cup finals. In 1980, it was officially renamed stadio Giuseppe Meazza and a decade later in 1990 they were awarded the rights to host the World Cup. For that reason, they renovated it again and allowed for about 700 more seats. By 2012, Inter announced the intention to build a new club-owned stadium which they hope to move into by 2016.

6. Ibrox Stadium in Scotland

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

The first match at Ibrox Stadium took place in 1899 and its popularity rapidly grew to the point where they expanded seating beyond 75,000. However, in 1902, 26 people died when wooden terraces inside the stadium, collapsed during an international match between Scotland and England. After that, seating was reduced to about 25,000. But after some more renovations, attendance reached a record high of 118,567 in 1939 and this ultimately led to another disaster in 1971 where 66 people were killed in a crushing accident by an exit. Improvements were made after this deadly occurrence to ensure that such incidents would never happen again. Between 1990 and 1997 Ibrox Stadium was expanded and jumbotron screens were even installed in attempt to modernize the stadium.

5. Olympiastadion in Germany

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

Work began on Olympianstadion in Germany between 1934 and 1936 with the official opening day being August 1, 1936. The brand new stadium served as the host for the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics. It was later renovated in 1972 and 1973 to prepare for the 1974 World Cup. The Olympianstadion remained in decent condition until the 1990s when its condition began deteriorating and therefore, was completely redone. Due to its complete restoration by 2004, the stadium was awarded the final game of the 2006 World Cup. The stadium now supports a total of 74,064 seats, 4,226 business seats, 63 VIP spots and 13 skyboxes.

4. The Maracana in Brazil

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

The Maracana was built in 1948 in order to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Over 10,000 laborers worked non-stop to complete the work in time. The final stadium was opened on July 16, 1950 and drew a crowd of 175,000. However, some people recalled even more spectators than that and even FIFAʼs president announced he believed there were about 220,000 people there that day. Brazilians suffered a devastating loss that day, however, on the very same summer day, 39 years later, the home team beat Uruguay in the final game of Copa America. Debates over what to do with the stadium these days remains unclear.

3. La Bombonera in Argentina

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

The Argentina stadium was built between 1938 and 1940. The architect supposedly named it La Bombonera after the "bombon" he was eating at the time. Boca bought land in 1931 and built a stadium that held 100,000 people. La Bombonera officially opened on May 25, 1940. There was talk of relocating to a 140,000 person stadium in the 1970s but those plans were never carried out. In 1986, the stadium was renamed Estadio Alberto J. Armado after the former iconic club president. Almost a decade later, changes were made to the stadium including new VIP boxes. There are currently plans to build a new stadium adjacent to La Bombonera that would allow seating for up to 75,000 people.

2. Stamford Bridge in England

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

The Stamford Bridge stadium officially opened on April 28, 1877, but first served as an athletics venue in which a variety of sports were played for about 30 years. Almost 100,000 people could fit in the stadium at the time of its grand opening. Changes were made in the 1930s and in 1935 a record high attendance of 82,905 fans was documented for a match. Then in the 1970s, the old main stand was knocked down and replaced. After that, some other minor renovations were made and in 1994, the demolition of the north terraces began with a new seating stand. The capacity seating has since been limited and they might even try and move into a different stadium due to the fact that expansion would be too difficult and expensive.

1. Camp Nou in Spain

courtesy of stadiumguide.com

Camp Nou was built between 1954 and 1957 and officially opened on September 24, 1957. It replaced the Camp de les Corts and initially held 93,000 spectators. They expanded into a third tier in 1982 in order to host the World Cup with a seating capacity of about 120,000 people. In the 1990s, construction began in order to convert standing areas into seating areas which eliminated the maximum capacity to a little less than 100,000. In the early 2000s, plans were presented for a brand new Camp Nou but these plans were not carried out due to a lack of funding.


The game for all ages

Football attracts players of all ages and skill levels around the globe. Children can start playing for their local football club or at camps as early as the age of four. Usually the football organization sets up teams by age groups. For example, the U10 team will have players all under the age of 10. Many coaches believe that allowing all members of the team to have equal amounts of playing time is more important than winning or losing at such a young age, but this is not always the case. The cost can usually range from $10 to $75 for a season that can last roughly three months. This cost does not include equipment, transportation, and any tournament participation.

courtesy of marinasoccer.com

Age becomes less important as children get older. They can start getting into travel and cup teams that require some form of try out to determine their skill level. Sometimes the club will have an A and B team if there are enough players and coaches available. Having A and B teams can be beneficial to ensure that all players get an adequate amount of playing time and try to keep games competitive by allowing players near the same skill level to compete. Players often are required to pay a membership fee for these special teams. It can become quite expensive when all the costs like transportation to practices and tournaments, equipment, tournament entrance fees, hotels, etc. are added together.

At least in America, the vast majority of high schools have a football team. Like the travel and cup teams, try outs are held for players if they wish to be on their high school team. However, there is usually only varsity and junior varsity squads and a set number of players that are allowed on the roster. The coaches might need to make decisions on who they want to keep on the team and who will be let go. The junior varsity squad is used to help develop younger or less skilled players and once their season is over there are no playoffs. According to a high school football alumni, usually the top three teams in each section qualify for playoffs. If the varsity squad qualifies, they can pursue the district, regional, or state championships depending on how well they do during the season and each preceding round during playoffs. The same high school alumni stated that they usually only have one preseason tournament with the entire team and high school tournaments during the winter were optional. The cost for playing football at public schools is usually taken care of through fund raising activities. Having concession stands and other funding from school districts also helps pay for coaches, transportation, and some equipment.

The next step after playing for high school is often playing for a college or university. Getting recruited or trying out as a walk on are two ways to make a team. Unlike travel and high school teams, transportation and hotels are taken care of and do not come directly from the playersʼ pockets. The NCAA has colleges broken down into three different divisions (DI, DII, and DIII) depending on a number of different factors. The DI schools usually have better players and programs than DII and DIII. These divisions are then broken down into different conferences depending on the location of schools across the United States.

Professional club teams then typically recruit players from the university level. At this point players make money to play. Major League Soccer (MLS) is the most popular professional football league in the United States and Canada with 19 teams. The popularity in Europe is far greater than the United States and they consequentially have more leagues. The English Premier League (England), Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain), and Bundesliga (Germany) are considered to be some of the top European Leagues. These club teams differ from the international teams because they are made up of players from all around the world. There is a regular season for each league where each team plays every opponent twice. Each team is awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw and no points for a loss. The team with the most points at the end of the year is then crowned champion and awarded some type of cup.

courtesy of sportsbiter.com

The ultimate honor for any football player, or athlete in general, would be to play for their country. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the main governing body for all national teams around the world. The FIFA is broken up into smaller confederations mainly by continents, such as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). To be able to qualify for the FIFA world cup, the team must do well in their confederation. Each world cup has a set number of qualifiers taken from each confederation depending on how strong the groups of teams as a whole are in comparison to other confederations.


The World Cup

Thanks to the spreading popularity of this single sport, the competition and rivalries went beyond any league, state, or even country. The highest level of contest, and the best of the best players, could only be discovered in a worldwide tournament. Of course, soccer was already a well-known game played by teams around the globe during the Olympics. However, the growing renown for the sport presented FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) with an opportunity to create its own world championship. The organization began by holding negotiations with all of the membership associations.

The process for creating a world cup began in the 1920ʼs after FIFAʼs president, Jules Rimet, pitched the idea to other members of the organization. The initial response was generally positive. With help and encouragement from some especially intrigued individuals, such as the Secretary of the French Football Federation, Henri Delaunay, the news quickly spread around the world. Questionnaires were shared with different associated groups in order to determine the conditions of a worldwide competition. After receiving a variety of responses with feedback and concerns, the Executive Committee of FIFA drafted a proposal.

In order to pass the World Cup initiatives, the FIFA Congress met in Amsterdam in 1928 to discuss the idea. On May 28, the Congress made the decision to formally create an official World Cup hosted by FIFA every four years. Soon after, a variety of countries, including Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Italy, submitted requests to host the first FIFA World Cup. In the end, by 1929, the honor of being chosen to begin a tradition that has lasted for decades was given to Uruguay. The country volunteered to share any generated profits from the event and pay for travel and housing of every visiting team.

"An early World Cup match" courtesy of worldcupofjoe.com

The first World Cup took place in the brand-new stadium called the Estadio Centenario, located in Montevideo, Uruguay, on July 18, 1930. A variety of countries from around the world were represented at the championship. Although the idea for a world cup was originally invented in Europe, only four teams (France, Belgium, Romania and Yugoslavia) were able to attend from that part of the globe (due to financial constraints). Still, the event drew huge crowds of fans and proved to be a remarkably beneficial next step for soccer. Additionally, the overall event generated plenty of revenue. The first winner of a World Cup was the home team from Uruguay.

Over the next several years, the FIFA World Cup continued to gain fame from fans found all over the earth. One source of its growth actually resulted from the decision to drop the soccer events from the 1932 Summer Olympics. As a result, fans of soccer were left with only the FIFA World Cup for a few years. Advertising techniques improved along with the more detailed development of the actual regulations for the sport.

"Fans at the World Cup" courtesy of alannambiar.wordpress.com

Although the first World Cup divided teams into group divisions, the rules changed and evolved with each new championship. Since there were fewer teams in the beginning, multiple games were played against different opponents in the same round. Eventually, as more teams from around the world participated, there were small group matches in the lower tiers of the tournament. These were followed by single-elimination knockout matches. Staring with the second World Cup, a series of qualifications was created to determine which teams would participate. Over a period of two years, qualifying matches are played between teams divided into world regions. If a certain region has a more competitive and active professional soccer scene, that area is more likely to send extra teams to the World Cup. One important aspect of the World Cup that differed from the Olympics was the type of teams. Instead of forming an amateur lineup composed of the best members found from across a country, the World Cup allowed professional teams to participate and compete against others. FIFA felt that this created a more competitive and exciting environment, since the players were already used to working well together as a team.

"The World Cup trophy" courtesy of cbc.ca

Today, the FIFA World Cup remains an enormous sporting event that draws crowds from diverse homes and backgrounds together for their shared love of soccer. The best professional teams compete to determine the top champions of the entire world. They seek to win the world title and hold the Jules Rimet Trophy, named in commemoration of the original mind behind the World Cup. The continued popularity of this tournament helps to prove why soccer is still the most widespread sport around the world.


Football and the Olympics

Soccer has a long line of history and remains a social and competitive event found in multiple countries around the world. As the rules became more refined and commonly accepted, an interest in international matches began to appear. Several unofficial games were arranged between England and other nearby countries by the reigning authority at the time: the English Football Association. Enthusiasm for country vs. country matches grew rapidly, and the first official game was played between England and Scotland in 1872. A crowd of 4,000 people gathered to watch the game in Patrick, Scotland. The enthusiasm and passion of the players and fans, as well as the competitive nature of the sport eventually led to soccerʼs induction into the most renowned international sports competition, the Olympics.

"The First International Match" courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Although there were some missteps in the beginning, soccer quickly became a popular part of the Olympics lineup. The games committee invited soccer teams to represent their countries in the summer of 1896. However, modern and organized soccer was still in its early phases, even in Europe. No countries were able to form teams in time for the games, and only several individual players showed up at the event. In the end, soccer was removed from the list in 1896. But, just four years later, soccer became an official sport in the Olympics.

Soccer was first seen as part of the Games of the Olympiad II, or, in other words, the second iteration of the modern Olympics. Held in Paris in 1900, the first organized, national teams met to compete in an international tournament. Still, soccer (particularly on a world-wide scale) was lacking a high level of organization and a detailed set of uniform rules. It was not until 1908, during the Olympics held in London, that a modern international league was utilized. This resulted from the continued support of the English Football Association (which soon became the FIFA and included other countries as members). Ultimately, England was able to win over Denmark in the final round of the tournament, taking home the first gold medal for soccer.

"One of the first Olympic Football Games" courtesy of cbc.ca

By the time of the next summer Olympics in 1912, FIFA continued gathering associate countries from around the world and encouraged them to participate. The number of teams rose to 11, but they were still only from European countries. Once again, England was able to win the gold. Since the games were cancelled in 1916 (due to World War I), the Olympic soccer tournament had time to become better organized and generated interest from other parts of the world. By 1924, 22 countries sent soccer teams to the games, including Egypt, the United States, and several Southern American teams.

A soccer team from Uruguay surprised the world when it took the gold medal for both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. Although the country had plenty of reason to celebrate, FIFA overall felt that the team was able to win twice in a row due a rule maintained by the International Olympic Committee. No professional teams were allowed to represent their countries in the games. The Olympics only allowed individual players brought together to specifically form teams for just the games. Basically, through a series of background research and qualifications, the top players in a country would be brought together to form a national, temporary team.

"Women's 2012 gold medal ceremony" courtesy of csmonitor.com

In 1932, soccer was removed from the list of games in the Olympics. This was partly due to the Olympics losing some interest in the sport since there was another international event. FIFA had recently created its own World Cup. Additionally, since the games were being held in Los Angeles, US members of the committee wanted to avoid confusion with a new sport, American football. Soccer was reintroduced in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.

After missing from the 1932 games, soccer has currently remained a major part of every single summer Olympics. The rules continued to develop over the years, and the sport has remained a popular event even when compared to the FIFA World Cup. To help differentiate the two major international tournaments, age restrictions were placed on the Olympics. Teams must be composed of players who are 23 or younger (with the exception of up to three older members per team). New teams continue participating, including those from different countries in Asia. Another major development was the inclusion of female teams introduced in 1996 at the games held in Atlanta. The Olympics proved to be the perfect place for soccer to continue to gain popularity and spread further around the world.


Renown players of the game

David Beckham

courtesy of images5.fanpop.com

David Robert Joseph Beckham was born on May 2, 1975 in Leytonstone, London, England. His parents were avid Manchester United fans and would travel long distances to see them play. As a kid, this sparked Beckhamʼs interest in football; so much so that he would tell people he was going to be a "footballer" when he grew up. Young David attended one of Bobby Charltonʼs football schools and soon earned the chance to participate in a training session at FC Barcelona. After that, Beckham floated between a few different schools before signing forms with his long-time favorite team, Manchester United, on his 14th birthday.

In December of 1994 he made his first UEFA Champions League debut and then made his official Premier League debut in April of 1995. Beckham found immediate success and one of his most famous plays occurred in the summer of 1996 when he scored from halfway down the field on a goalie he noticed was not paying proper attention. During the 1998-99 season with MU, Beckham helped his team win The Treble of the Premier League, FA Cup, and the Champions League.

In 1999, Beckham married Spice Girl Victoria Adams despite his coachʼs concerns. However, Beckham helped silence speculation as he contributed greatly to his teamʼs Premier League title for the 1999-00 season and for a third consecutive year in the 2000-01 season. By the end of the 2002-03 season though, he was ready to leave Manchester United. Injury and always present tension with his coach prompted this decision. By the time he left, he had made 265 Premier league appearances for United and scored 61 goals. He also made 81 Champions league appearances, scoring 15 goals. Beckham won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, and one FA Youth Cup in the space of 12 years.

In the summer of 2003, Beckham was traded to Real Madrid for a 4-year/35 million dollar contract. He proved worthy of his paycheck, however, as he helped the Real win the Spanish Super Cup later that year. From 2004 to 2007, Beckham continued to play for the Real and also in a number of send-off games. In 2007, he announced that he had accepted a 5-year/32.5 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy. This created a whirlwind of frenzy here in the US as football fans all over the country were ecstatic that they would be able to witness Beckham on home turf. His popularity was heightened to the full extent with ticket and merchandise sales going through the roof.

After joining Milan on loan in 2009 and 2010, Beckham returned to the Galaxy in September 2010. In 2011, he silenced the hostile crowd and fans by helping them win the MLS Cup and in 2012 Beckham announced that the MLS Cup Final would be his last game. However, in January of 2013, Beckham announced that he signed a 5-month deal with Paris Saint-German in which his entire salary during the time spent there would be donated to a local childrenʼs charity.

In his two-decade long career, David Beckham has become a household name all over the world. He is known not only for his amazing football skills, but also for his remarkably good looks, high-profile marriage, acting career, style and a variety of other things. He is a major factor in charity work and adores his own four children with wife Victoria. In 2009, their established joint worth was estimated at $125 million.

Mia Hamm

courtesy of udel.edu

Mariel Margaret "Mia" Hamm was born on March 17, 1972 in Selma, Alabama. She was born with a club foot and had to wear corrective shoes as a toddler. Her childhood was spent on Air Force bases all over the world including San Antonio, Texas and Italy. She always had an interest in football and first started playing for Notre Dame Catholic High school in Wichita Falls, TX. In 1987 Hamm became the youngest person to ever play for the U.S. National Team at just 15 years. Then in 1989, she helped her high school, Lake Braddock Secondary School, win the state championship.

Hamm attended the University of North Carolina and helped the Tar Heels to four NCAA Womenʼs football championships in five years. During her time with UNC, the team lost only one game out of a total 95 in which she started. She was an All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year for her last three years. In 1991, at age 19, Hamm became the youngest player in history to win the World Cup.

Hamm graduated from UNC after winning the ACC Female Athlete of the year twice. In 1995, she scored two goals for the U.S. in the FIFA Womenʼs World Cup. Plus, she helped lead the U.S. to take home gold in the 1996 Olympic Games. Hamm was also a key player again in 1999 when the U.S. hosted the FIFA Womenʼs World Cup. She scored on a penalty kick during a shootout in the final match against China with a record audience of 90,000 fans cheering on the USA.

In the 2004 summer Olympics that took place in Athens, Hamm once again helped her country take home the Gold. Shortly after this, Hamm and her teammates went on a "farewell tour" and on May 14, 2004 she announced her retirement. She wanted to start a family with baseball player Nomar Garciaparra whom she had married in 2003. By the time of her retirement, Hamm had scored a record of 158 international goals. She scored in 13 countries against 25 different national teams and in 2007, during her first year of eligibility; Hamm was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame for Womenʼs Professional Football. She is now happily retired with her husband and kids. She also oversees the Mia Hamm Foundation which was dedicated to bone marrow research in honor of her brother, Garrett, who had died of the disease shortly after the 1996 Olympics.

Cristiano Ronaldo

courtesy of assets.nydailynews.com

Cristiano Ronaldo was born on February 5, 1985 in Funchal, Madeira. He first started playing when he was eight years old for an amateur team. He signed with Sporting CP and began training at the clubʼs football academy. However, when he was only 15, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a racing heart which created the possibility he may have to give up playing for good, until he underwent a laser surgery that allowed him to keep training. In 2003, he came to the attention of Manchester Unitedʼs manager Alex Ferguson and he ended up signing with the team for a major salary boost.

Ronaldo became the first Portuguese player to join Manchester United when he accepted their deal. He scored his first goal for MU with a free kick in their victory over Portsmouth in late 2003. Then in 2005, he scored Unitedʼs 1000th Premier League goal. Later that year he was also voted FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year. He also helped his team win the Football League Cup in the 2005-06 season.

During MUʼs 2006-07 season, Ronaldo broke the 20 goal barrier for the first time and also picked up his first league title. He received two consecutive Barclays Player of the Month honors. In 2007 he scored his milestone 50th goal as a United player. Even though Real Madrid was rumored to have offered Ronaldo an incredible salary, he extended his contract with MU instead. He signed a 5-year/$31 million deal. The 2007-08 season went on to be a major success for the star as he won quite a few prestigious awards. Ronaldo also served as captain for the first time in early 2008 and later that year he scored the only goal for MU in the Champions League Final which ended in a tie.

In the summer of 2008, Ronaldo underwent ankle surgery but returned to the game by fall of the same year. He then went on to break the 100 goal milestone. In early 2009 he became the first Premier League player to be named the FIFA World Player of the Year. In the summer of the same year, Real Madrid offered MU $80 million to pick him up and Ronaldo later confirmed the trade which made him the most expensive footballer in history.

He went on to make his Real Madrid debut in 2009 and scored his first goal just one week later. Ronaldo suffered yet another ankle injury that fall but returned quickly and went on to have a very successful year in 2010. However, in early 2011, he suffered his longest goal drought, scoring only twice in one month. He made a comeback a few months later though and even went on a three-game scoring streak. Later in 2011, he scored his 100th goal with Real Madrid. Then in 2012, a goal against Mallorca made him the first player to score against every team in a single season in La Liga.

After a whirlwind of rumors surrounding Ronaldoʼs next move, he stayed with Real Madrid and recently even helped send them to the semi-finals in the Champions league. Needless to say, his extremely admirable career is far from over as he continues to dominate the football world.


Women and Football

Football became popular and prevalent shortly after its birth, but it was not until recently that women have been able to penetrate the professional sphere. The first mention of womenʼs football occurred in the late nineteenth century in Scotland and England. These matches were simply between groups of married and unmarried women and were very informal. Womenʼs football evolved and became increasingly serious in Great Britain, France and Canada. In 1920, 53,000 people came to watch the Dick, Kerr Ladies played the St. Helen Ladies and even more fans had to be locked out. This seemed progressive for womenʼs professional football, but actually had a major consequence. The Football Association in London considered this a threat and in 1921 banned women from playing on their fields for 50 years. This dramatically decreased womenʼs participation in the sport, but other countries did support professional womenʼs football and kept the sport alive for females.

"The Dick, Kerr Ladies (left) playing St. Helenʼs Ladies in 1920" courtesy of dipity.com

In the 1930s, Italy, France and Germany all created football leagues for women and by 1950 Italy had a womenʼs national team. By the 1980s, the ban was lifted, many more countries had leagues and international competition began heavily in Europe. The womenʼs first World Cup occurred in 1991 and the first Olympic football competition occurred in 1996 in front of a sold-out crowd in Georgia. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) even went so far in 1978 as to recognize sports and physical activity as a human right and not solely for men. The United States has been especially supportive of womenʼs football by passing Title IX legislation in 1972 that banned sex discrimination in all schools and facilitated equal opportunities for women to play football seriously. The success of the United States national team and their solid fan base in the 1990s also helped advance womenʼs professional football and led to the creation of the first womenʼs association in 2001, the Womenʼs United Soccer Association.

However, throughout the entire growth of womenʼs football it has still mostly remained an amateur sport. The FIFA acknowledges that, "soccer for young girls in many parts of the world is often considered...a solely recreational activity [owing to] cultural barriers, social mores and the lack of any financial hope for a future in the game." Several times a year, usually monthly, the FIFA ranks the national football teams based on a variety of measures including the amount of games the teams have played. In July 2011, there were 206 menʼs national teams ranked, but only 129 womenʼs national teams made ranking (43 other womenʼs teams with provisional ranks because they played fewer than five international matches). While the sport of football is a worldwide phenomenon, womenʼs football continues to struggle to gain support.

The Womenʼs Sports Foundation maintains that male athletes receive $179 million more in athletic scholarships than women do and universities only spend about 33 percent of their scholarship budgets for females. In addition, institutions typically only spend 24 percent of their athletic operating budget on womenʼs sports. The low financial support that women receive to play results in more out of pocket costs and unjustly reduces the amount of women able to participate in the sport professionally. Lower application for professional football in turn leads to less professional teams nationwide and internationally causing less support for the foundation of any new teams.

"Canadaʼs Diana Matheson (left) and United Statesʼ Megan Rapinoe battling in an Olympic game" courtesy of blog.syracuse.com

Successes of professional womenʼs teams are also severely hampered by the countries in which they reside. Research has indicated that several characteristics still prevent womenʼs football worldwide. Culture is a huge hindrance to females playing football. Studies have shown that strong Latin heritage or Muslim religion in a country often prevents the success of female football teams and in many cases has prevented them from even forming. This most likely stems from the conservative nature of these cultures and the importance of specific gender roles. Low economic capability also lowers the likelihood of successful womenʼs teams; and where female leagues are successful, they often draw resources away from their male counterparts.

However, some characteristics help to breed prosperous female football leagues. Communist nations have a high percentage of successful womenʼs football teams. This is theorized to be due to the strength of equality promoted by the communist ideology. In a free market, men are often provided higher wages for their football performances than women, often leading women to be less enticed to enter the professional sphere. However, in a communist nation the incentives for men and women are supposed to be equal and therefore provide women with more incentive to develop professionally as football players. Countries that respect womenʼs equal right to education and other aspects in life are also more likely support professional womenʼs leagues.

Overall, while a good football match has been known to overcome many differences between various cultures and ethnicities, women are still fighting to secure themselves in the worldʼs favorite sport. Equality and professionalism for womenʼs leagues is slowly coming to fruition, but is still not complete.


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