Today, Soccer/Football (commonly called football or association football) is the most popular sport in the world, with around 250 million players. Almost everyone has seen a Soccer/Football match, and the names of great Soccer/Football players like Pelé, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, and Kylian Mbappé are known around the world. One may ask, how did Soccer/Football become the most popular sport in the world? Well, below, we will show you how. Keep reading to learn how Soccer/Football became the international phenomenon it is today.
The Origin of Soccer/Football
The Ancient Chinese and Mesoamericans are the first recorded cultures to have kicked balls into nets as a sport, but Soccer/Football wasn’t established as a competitive sport until the 19th century, in England. At that time, the sport was recognized as a middle-class hobby. However, with its growing popularity, football was taken up by independent schools, including Winchester and Charterhouse. Each school had its own set of rules until 1843 when the University of Cambridge made the first attempt to develop a universal rule system.
The university ultimately failed to produce standardized rules, but Cambridge graduates began forming football clubs across London. By the 1870s, the first set of universal Soccer/Football rules were introduced by the Football Association (FA). Pleasing everyone was difficult. Sheffield, a city in northern Britain, was one of the first clubs to join the FA. After the establishment of the rules, Sheffield parted ways with the FA and started the Sheffield Football Club. Multiple different associations formed around Great Britain in the late 1860s and all formed together in 1877 to form a 43-club, tournament-style league.
The Expanse of Soccer/Football
Working-class citizens from surrounding countries, such as Ireland and Scotland, began to take notice of the popular British sport. By the 1880s, players from all over Western Europe were playing in Great Britain. Thus began the start of professional Soccer/Football, where players would be compensated for their talents. In 1888, the Football League was established: for the first time, the 12 best teams in Great Britain would compete in their professional league. Professional Soccer/Football was starting to gain popularity levels similar to rugby and cricket, the two leading sports in Great Britain. Ireland and Scotland formed leagues of their own in 1890. Soccer/Football continued to grow and grow, as leagues were formed all over Europe, all following the rules and regulations established in London.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Soccer/Football became a highly sought-after sports industry, and began expanding overseas. Nations from across Europe came together, forming the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA. Britishman Daniel Woolfall was elected as FIFA President in 1906, and British rules became the official rules for Soccer/Football around the world.
The first official FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930. Uruguay took home the World Cup trophy that year. FIFA established that the World Cup would be held every four years, though the tournament was canceled twice due to the Second World War. After the first World Cup, countries from around the world started developing football associations in their nations, hoping to get a taste of glory.
In the latter half of the 20th century, Nations from Africa, the Americas, and others joined FIFA. In 1961, Guinea became the 100th nation to join the organization. With the organization growing, FIFA expanded its range. Youth World Championships, futsal (indoor Soccer/Football), and women’s Soccer/Football tournaments such as the Women’s World Cup were created in the late 1900s.
Today, Soccer/Football has reached heights no other sport has. FIFA has over 200 registered nations in its organization. Every four years, 3.9 billion fans tune in to watch their nation participate in the FIFA World Cup. The winning nation of the world cup receives a $700 million prize. Brazil currently holds the record for most World Cup titles, with five, but Germany and Italy follow closely, with four each. Nations from all around the world have brought home their own World Cup titles, and the sport has expanded to the youth worldwide.
Not only has football dominated the sporting world, but it is also the occupation of some of the highest-profile individuals on the planet. Players like Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappé have reached levels of world-class fame through their amazing talents. Ronaldo is currently the most-followed person on Instagram, and Messi is the most-followed South American on the app. Soccer/Football has become such a massive phenomenon that its players and organizations are recognized names throughout the sports world and beyond.