Home » More » The Ancient History of Association Football

The Ancient History of Association Football

Thanks to the 2022 World Cup, soccer has achieved even greater popularity than before. In 2023, the sport is watched by over 3 billion people worldwide. National leagues, international matches, continental cups, and more make up the bulk of the fan base. However, many are curious how the sport came about. In this article, we explore the ancient history of football, and how we may have gotten the game in its modern iteration.

Table of Contents

The Ancient World

Many might be shocked to find that soccer has existed since the Ancient era. Or at least, the roots of the sport can be traced back to those days. It is, admittedly, rather strange to think of soccer as an ancient sport. The game is so ingrained in our modern world, what with FIFA, the World Cup, sports betting, and online bookmakers. 

Speaking of which, football is today’s most popular betting sport. Sportsbooks offer a ton of odds and different types of bets, all relating to soccer. Football fans place bets regarding the outcome of a match, the performance of a club, or even goals scored by a single player. Of course, these websites also double as online casinos. Should you visit these sites, you will find that you can play all of the latest online roulette games, and much more.

However, this could not be further from the truth. While several countries have had their own ancient versions of the game, the two most prominent ones come from Greece and China. So, let’s take a look at the Ancient Chinese and Greek origins of the game we all love today.

In Ancient Greece – Episkyros

Episkyros was a ball game played in Ancient Greece. Two teams, comprised of 12 – 14 players each, competed in a teamwork-oriented, full-contact game, in which players were meant to punt a ball through a goal. The game’s rules allowed for full-contact slams, as well as the use of hands and legs. 

While we can definitely see football’s roots in episkyros, the game more closely resembled full-contact sports that arose out of football, such as rugby or American football. In either case, episkyros is an important step for modern football’s development.

In Ancient China – Cuju

While episkyros may slightly resemble football, cuju is undeniably an early version of the sport. Literally translating to “kick ball,” the Ancient Chinese game involved two teams, each comprised of around 12 players, competing to score goals. Heavily team-oriented, cuju was a favorite game among Chinese people, both royals and peasantry. 

Depictions of the game date back to the Han dynasty. However, in Chinese mytho-history, soccer was taught to the Chinese people by their first, legendary Emperor. Historic records reveal that cuju was also played in neighboring Asian countries, such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. 


Apart from cuju and episkyros, similar ball games from the Ancient world include Japan’s kemari, Korea’s chuk-guk, and a Native American game called pasuckuakohowog, which some have described as “identical” to football. 

The soccer we play today, however, came about in the mid-19th century. In 1848, the Cambridge University drew the first rules for football. And while they are largely outdated, many consider this to be the starting point for modern day football.

Leave a Comment