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The First Kicks
We do not know exactly when soccer—or football, as it’s known to most of the world — madness first began. Kicking a ball around was popular from Egypt to South America, from Greece to China. But the word “football” first appeared in a proclamation issued by King Edward III of England in 1363. The instigator of the Hundred Years War forbade his subjects from playing “handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or such idle games.”
In those days, the inhabitants of the British Isles played soccer in a crowd, without any rules or restrictions on the number of players. The games would often end in street fights, with ensuing consequences. But despite bans from city authorities, soccer continued to gain popularity.
The modern format of the game, in which two teams of 11 play on a limited field, appeared only in England in the middle of the 19th century. But every soccer team played by their own rules. That was a problem for tournaments. A single code, “The Cambridge Rules,” appeared in 1846, turning street entertainment into a serious sport.