Soccer, or better known to the rest of the world as football, is one of the oldest sports in history. Dating back to 206 B.C., there are accounts of Chinese soldiers playing Tsu’chu, “kicking the ball,” to supplement their training regiments during the Han Dynasty. While many other ancient cultures played games involving a ball, Tsu’chu was the first to not allow hands. Goals consisted of a net attached to two bamboo poles and elevated 30 feet in the air. This is quite the contrast to modern goals that sit on the ground and extend eight feet high and 24 feet wide. The particular style of playing a game with a ball, centered around one’s feet, spread throughout the world.
During the medieval period in Europe, particularly in England, games were played in towns that pitted rival squads against one another. This was called Folkball. The goal was to place the ball into a designated area, usually the captain’s house, to score a point. This would often entail a distance of a few miles between scoring destinations. Games typically resulted in low scoring matches as the process of advancing the ball would be brutal and without regard to one’s well being. Without any set rules the game would cause massive commotion throughout the towns in which it was held, leading to its ban in the 14th century.
In 1863, official rules for football were drawn up to create an organized game in England. These rules formally differentiated between rugby football and association football. Hence, modern football was born.
As more clubs agreed to Football Association (F.A.) rules, the desire to breed uniform leagues emerged. In 1872 the first F.A. Cup was played, and by 1888 a league was formed with 128 teams participating in some capacity. England’s love for the game rubbed off on neighboring European countries, eventually making its way to South America. By 1907 there were twelve official F.A. leagues worldwide.
Seven members formed the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) in Paris, France, in 1904. Those members included: Belgium, France, Holland, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. In 1930, the year of the first World Cup, FIFA had reached 40 members.
Due to an economic depression in Europe at the time of the first World Cup, many nations were not able to travel to Uruguay and compete. With the help of the host country, four European teams did manage to trek the Atlantic for the World Cup, most notably being Belgium and France.
The results of the first World Cup were not shocking as favorites Argentina and Uruguay competed in the final match resulting in a 4-2 victory for the hosts. The United States of America lost to Argentina 6-1 in the semi-final, which remains the USA’s best finish in the tournament’s history.
Today after 21 mega events, Brazil is the most successful team with five world cups while Germany and Italy have won four world cup each.
European teams have been the most successful with 12 wins while CONMEBOL, the South American have won nine.
Today there are six confederations under FIFA that govern specific regions based primarily on the continent in which they belong. In total, there are more than 200 F.A. leagues worldwide.
Talking about the leagues, English Premier League is the most-watched league in the world and it generates more revenue among all the leagues in the world. English Football League was established in 1888 and ran until 1992 before Premier League was founded. It consists of 69 professional English clubs and three coming from Wales divided into three divisions. It was all chaos before the division was formed. Teams arranging their own matches, rules and regulations were molded according to their needs. It was William McGregor, a Scottish Director of Aston Villa who first tried to give some order to the chaotic environment of football. On March 22, 1888 he wrote a letter to the Football committee on behalf of his club and some other clubs suggesting a creation of a league with set rules and with equality in the number of fixtures.
On the very next day, on the eve of FA Cup final, a formal meeting was held and The Football League was officially formed. Each club played the other club twice, a home and an away fixture, and two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. Preston was victorious in the first season and they won it without even losing a fixture. Later on, changes were made for the betterment of the division and it went on to become the biggest league in the world.
In the late 1980’s the English football suffered a downfall with supporters complaining about the poor facilities, and there are fires, fights in the fixtures as well, due to which English clubs were banned in 1985 from European Competitions. But the 1990 FIFA World Cup changed it all. England performed beyond expectations, they reached semi-finals and with the craze and love for English football among fans, the European Football’s Governing body had to lift the five-year ban. The English clubs were up to the task again with Manchester United lifting the 1991 UEFA Cup title.
After that club owners decided to take football seriously after the realization that there is some serious money involved in it. Many clubs started to transform into business ventures applying principles that can get them more money.
It was 1990, when London Weekend Television’s Managing Director, Greg Dyke met with the representatives of the ‘big five’ football clubs to pave the way for the breakaway from the Football League. And this was where the argument began to form a new league with developed plans and mainly, with more money. On May 27, 1992 the Premier League was formed which allowed commercial independence and gave Premier League the right to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements. Dyke, who played a major role in the formation of the league, lost the broadcasting rights in a bidding war. That’s how brutal the league was in terms on business and it is still the same.
Manchester United remains the most successful club in the Premier League thanks to Sir Alex Fergusson. They have won it more than any other club in the division, 13 times with Chelsea and Manchester City on the second place with five titles each.
Coming to the second biggest league in the world, the Spanish football league, also known as La Liga. It was formed back in 1929 and it is currently contested by 20 top Spanish Teams with three being relegated every year making way for three teams from the division below. Since its arrival, 62 teams have competed in the league with Real Madrid being the most successful club with 34 titles.
Barcelona are second on the list with 26 titles followed by Atletico Madrid who have been crowned the champions for 11 times.
The other two top leagues in Europe are Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga.
Ligue 1 have also been a contender for the top four leagues.
Here are the league standings for the top division in the world: