Football – in various forms – has existed for millennia. Historic evidence suggests that people in ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome enjoyed sports that involved kicking or handling a ball in a designated field of play.

It was most likely the Romans who spread the game they called harpastum throughout Europe and eventually to the British Isles, where the game took hold as mellay. As the later derived term melee suggests, this early form of football was characterized by wild mob action. Legend says the first mellay ball was actually the head of a Danish pirate. During Tudor times, football was characterized by injuries and fatalities, and laws were passed against the “devilish game” because it was depleting the workforce.

By 1700s, Football Players Adopted Rules, and the Game Began to Resemble Modern-Day Soccer

Over the centuries, rules were applied to mellay, and the sport gradually became more civilized, even though it was considered a game for commoners. By the 18th century, the game resembled modern-day soccer. At English secondary schools like Eton and Harrow, it was adopted as a popular intramural. However, rules varied from school to school – with one exception: players could not carry the ball. Continue reading