The game of soccer, or association football as it is properly called, is the world's most popular team sport. Virtually every country on Earth plays the game in some form or another. It is both physically and intellectually demanding, requiring athletic skill and quick thinking. Brazil's Pele, perhaps the greatest player the sport has ever known, called soccer "the beautiful game"(see Pele).
Various civilizations lay claim to discovering the sport. There are records of soccerlike games having been played in China more than 2,000 years ago as well as in ancient Greece, Japan, and Mexico. The Romans played a game known as harpastum that spread throughout Europe and was probably the origin of modern soccer.
England, however, was the real starting place of today's game. In 1863 the Football Association (FA) was created and uniform rules were established there. In 1872 the first international game was played between England and Scotland. And it was in England that soccer professionalism was legalized in 1885. From there the game spread throughout the Empire and to the rest of the world.
By 1904 an international governing body was established to control the sport the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Today, FIFA, which is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, has more than 140 member nations and oversees the activity of about 39 million players worldwide.
How to play the game of Soccer