Which Country Invented Soccer? A Look Back at Football's Early History


Often dubbed “The World’s Game,” the sport of soccer had to originate somewhere. 

Due to its accessibility and straightforward style, people all across the globe revere the sport, which shows when events like the World Cup occur.

As the 2022 FIFA World Cup gets underway in Qatar, which will be the 22nd edition of the tournament since it began in 1930, let’s take a look back to see which country invented the global sport:

Which country invented soccer?

The early days of the sport take us to China, where “Tsu’ Chu” – pronounced tsoo-joo – was coined as a form of kickball, according to FIFA. This happened during the Han Dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD. The ball was made of leather and stuffed with feathers and hair, with the goal being a small net attached to long bamboo canes.

Other early forms of the game include the Japanese “Kemari”, which started around 500-600 years after Tsu’ Chu, Greece’s “Episkyros” and the Roman “Harpastum”. 

Kemari is a form of players not letting the ball touch the ground as they all stand in a circle, which is still played today. There’s not many details on Episkyros, but Harpastum took some inspiration from it. 

Harpastum’s main objective, which featured two teams and a small ball similar to the size of a softball, was for a team to keep the ball on their side of the field for as long as possible. Tackling, wrestling and fighting appeared to have been permitted, but concrete details are not known, according to FIFA and History of Soccer.

Did England invent soccer?

England is typically credited for inventing the modernized version of the sport beginning in 1863 with the founding of the Football Association, which differs from China’s origins. 

The sport was played in England in smaller ways before the Football Association was founded, but having an official governing body helped establish rules that are still developing to this day. 

When did the first ever international soccer game take place?

National teams from Scotland and England collided on Nov. 30, 1872, in what FIFA recognizes today as soccer’s first international match. The 0-0 draw between the two countries took place in front of a crowd of 4,000 people who packed into the see fledgling sport be played on the cricket grounds at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Why do English fans say ‘It’s Coming Home’?

England’s national football team nickname is the Three Lions. In a song by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightning Seeds titled “Three Lions” released in 1996, the lyrics “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home” are what English fans started singing when the UEFA Euro 1996 tournament was held in England. 

The slogan for the tournament was “Football Comes Home” as a way to refer to the sport’s history and the hope that England would finally win a major international trophy after having a drought that has lasted since 1966, when it won the World Cup. 

England finished the 1996 tournament as semifinalists and still have not won a major title since, but came close when it was runner-ups to Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 competition that was held in 2021 due to COVID-19.

With England in Group B with the U.S., Wales and Iran in Qatar in 2022, keep a lookout for fans chanting and social media users saying “It’s coming home” as a nod to the Three Lions’ football program – one that is hoping to end a 56-year international title drought.

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