TW Viewpoint | Soccer: The King of Sports

September 16, 2022 | Bruno Duval

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Who has never heard of soccer? Almost everyone who lives in this century has seen or heard of this sport where two teams of 11 players each compete to put the ball in the opponent's goal. But where did this popular game come from and why has it become so popular over the last two centuries?

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, officially recognized cuju as the ancestor of soccer in 2004.

Cuju originated in China nearly 2000 years ago. Two teams of twelve players played with a leather ball to score goals against their opponents by kicking the ball through an opening into a net without the use of hands. It is interesting to note that other variations of soccer have been documented all over the world.

For example, about 3,000 years ago the Olmecs played a ball game called ollama as part of their rituals. Ollama was played on a tlachtli court. According to Encyclopedia Britannica the court was:

"… shaped like a capital I with serifs and oriented north–south or east–west,. Players, wearing heavy padding, used elbows, knees, and hips to knock a solid rubber ball into the opponent's end of the court. In Post-Classic times (after c. 900 CE), the object was to hit the ball through one of two vertical stone rings (placed on each side of the court)."(Encyclopedia Britannica)

Much later, the conquistadors discovered that the Mayans played a game called pok ta pok with a rubber ball that was played without hands, very similar to ollama.

The Greeks also played several ball games, including "pheninde". During the Middle Ages, "haspartum" which is a variant of the Greek "pheninde", conquered Europe and took different forms, depending on the region in which it was played. Unlike pok ta pok, harpastum was played with the feet as well as with the hands.

In France, the soûle, which was quite brutal,

"consisted of dropping a kind of balloon filled with hay or wicker into the opponent's camp." (Enc. Universalis)

The ball was kicked with the hand, the fist, the foot or even wooden sticks.

Thereafter, another game called calcio developed in Italy during the Renaissance. But it is in England during the XIXth century that soccer would begin to take on its modern form, influenced by "soûle" which had made its appearance on the British territory a few centuries earlier.

Indeed, faced with the growing number of teams that were emerging, each with its own rules and codes, the English set about codifying the sport. Competitions and matches were generally played in schools. Until then there was no clear distinction between rugby and soccer. It was during one of these codification attempts that the break between rugby and soccer was made. About 1863. From this point on, the Football Association (FA) was created. It was this association that laid the foundations of modern soccer. And a few years later, legendary clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal etc. were born.

Today, soccer has almost 4 billion fans worldwide and has managed to establish itself as the king of sports .Its popularity comes from the fact that soccer is an activity that does not cost much in terms of equipment, and can be easily played by all social classes.

However, it should be noted that the rise in global popularity of this sport seems to have developed only during the period of British hegemony. The game spread like wildfire through the colonial empires, England being the largest of all. But the great contribution of the British was to codify the rules, thus opening the door to regional, national and international play of a popular, non-violent and codified sport.

Why has such a small country had such a great influence around the world? Why has it been said that the sun never sets on the British Empire? Why did the sport it codified become the most popular and practiced sport in the world? Why has its language become the international language of business, ligua franca of much of the world, including the official language of the European Union? Is it possible that the supremacy of this people through its language and culture could have been predicted centuries before?

Soccer has spread because of its convenience and natural appeal, but this expansion is undeniably linked to the global influence of the British Empire in the 19th century...

Some feel the reason for the rise in influence of Britain can be found in the pages of an ancient manuscript. Indeed, about 4000 years ago, a man whose death was imminent called upon two of his grandsons to tell them about their future and that of their descendants. The two grandsons in question were named Manasseh and Ephraim, and this is the prediction their grandfather made about them:

"He (Manasseh) also shall become a people, he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." Genesis 48:19

A number of historians agree that this prophecy has been fulfilled in the peoples of the United States of America and Great Britain. This great nation and this multitude of nations have undoubtedly dominated the last 200 years on a global scale.

This prediction made so long ago may well explain the disproportional wealth, power and influence possessed by Great Britain and its descendant nations. One of its many legacies is likely the spread of the world's most popular sport.

If you want to know more about this topic, watch our telecast: Why Britain became Great?

The ball is now in your court!

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