A truly worldwide game, football is estimated to have been played by 250 million players worldwide with 1.3 billion of earth’s inhabitants interested in the game. Known around the world as ‘the beautiful game’, the sport is easy to play and doesn’t require a lot of equipment to be successful. Infact, some of the best players from around the world have been born out of poverty. From Best to Maradona. In the modern age the game has experienced increasing monetary and technological influence, but remains at its core the most popular sport in the world, with a combined viewing of 26 billion watching the 2010 World cup.
First played in China and then adopted in medieval times. Football as it is modern known would start in post-Victorian industrial Britain. By 1877 the newly formed English FA (football association) would unite the working class sport into one body of rules. This would allow for the creation of leagues and competitions from a historically fragmented new sport. It wouldn’t be until the early 20th century that football would spread across to Europe and beyond.
Following widespread popularity and accessibility the game spread from the working class towns of Britain across the world. The original FIFA body would be set up by European nations in 1904, but wouldn’t include a stubborn Britain who were against the creation. The game would go on to take the world by storm. By 1961, Guinea became the 100th country to join the organisation and by the turn of the 21st century, 200 countries made up FIFA, more than the UN. It is perhaps this fact alone which shows just how impressive a game football is and has been throughout the years. Transforming people’s lives whether it be a player, coach or fan.
The game has progressed over the years and rules have constantly been adopting and changing with the times. By 1870 handling the ball (except the goalkeeper) was prohibited, mainly to stop confusion between the working class football game and the middle class rugby played by others and by 1883 the offside rule came into play. The standardised first set of rules would be known as the ‘Cambridge rules’. It wouldn’t be till FIFA created its body and set the rules that this would change. In the modern game the rules change rapidly from season to season. Recent technological advances have allowed for intrusions into the game such as goal-line technology and VAR which allow officials tighter rulings on foul play, ultimately changing the course of the game forever. Some believe this to be a step away from the working class roots of the game.
Perhaps the biggest turn away from the working class roots of the game is the money football now has in it. Over the decades money has increasingly become a huge part of the game. Commodification, TV deals, sports betting with Infogol and sponsorships have seen the game explode into a seemingly endless money pit. Tied to this is recent FIFA scandals over legitimacy and criminal activity. With the money has come fame and celebrity status for many footballers however, who continually prove to be excellent role models for disadvantaged, yet talented, children around the globe.
The game has continually brought people together from around the world to spectate this game being played. This happens every 4 years with the continuation of the FIFA World Cup. Other competitions are prevalent in the footballing calendar around the world but this competition encapsulates even the most apathetic fans. The way that football does bring together is perfectly encapsulated by the current UEFA anti-racism advertising campaign which states ‘out there on that pitch, we are all the same’.