1. #30961
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    Both codes stemmed from a common root and both have a long and intricately branched ancestral tree. A search down the centuries reveals at least half a dozen different games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back. Whether this can be justified in some instances is disputable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that people have enjoyed kicking a ball about for thousands of years and there is absolutely no reason to consider it an aberration of the more 'natural' form of playing a ball with the hands.


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  2. #30962
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    On the contrary, apart from the need to employ the legs and feet in tough tussles for the ball, often without any laws for protection, it was recognised right at the outset that the art of controlling the ball with the feet was not easy and, as such, required no small measure of skill. The very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China.


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  3. #30963
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    This Han Dynasty forebear of football was called Tsu' Chu and it consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. According to one variation of this exercise, the player was not permitted to aim at his target unimpeded, but had to use his feet, chest, back and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of his opponents. Use of the hands was not permitted.


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  4. #30964
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    Another form of the game, also originating from the Far East, was the Japanese Kemari, which began some 500-600 years later and is still played today. This is a sport lacking the competitive element of Tsu' Chu with no struggle for possession involved. Standing in a circle, the players had to pass the ball to each other, in a relatively small space, trying not to let it touch the ground.


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  5. #30965
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    The Greek 'Episkyros' - of which few concrete details survive - was much livelier, as was the Roman 'Harpastum'. The latter was played out with a smaller ball by two teams on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centre line. The objective was to get the ball over the opposition's boundary lines and as players passed it between themselves, trickery was the order of the day. The game remained popular for 700-800 years, but, although the Romans took it to Britain with them, the use of feet was so small as to scarcely be of consequence.


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  6. #30966
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    For all the evidence of early ball sports played elsewhere in the world, the evolution of football as we know it today took place in Britain. The game that flourished in the British Isles from the eighth to the 19th centuries featured a considerable variety of local and regional versions - which were subsequently smoothed down and smartened up to create the modern-day sports of association football, rugby football and, in Ireland, Gaelic football.


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  7. #30967
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    Primitive football was more disorganised, more violent, more spontaneous and usually played by an indefinite number of players. Frequently, games took the form of a heated contest between whole villages - through streets and squares, across fields, hedges, fences and streams. Kicking was allowed, as in fact was almost everything else. Sometimes kicking the ball was out of the question due to the size and weight of the sphere being used - in such cases, kicking was instead limited to taking out opponents.


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  8. #30968
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    Curiously, it was not until nine years after the rules of football had been first established in 1863 that the size and weight of the ball were finally standardised. Up to then, agreement on this point was usually reached by the parties concerned when they were arranging the match, as was the case for a game between London and Sheffield in 1866. This encounter was also the first where the duration was prearranged for 90 minutes.


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  9. #30969
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    Shrovetide football, as it was called, belonged in the 'mob football' category, where the number of players was unlimited and the rules were fairly vague. For instance, according to an ancient handbook from Workington in England, any means could be employed to get the ball to its target with the exception of murder and manslaughter.


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  10. #30970
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    One theory is that the game is Anglo-Saxon in origin. In both Kingston-on-Thames and Chester, local legend has it the game was played there for the first time with the severed head of a vanquished Danish prince. In Derby, it is said to have originated in the third century during the victory celebrations that followed a battle against the Romans. Yet there is scant evidence of the sport having been played at this time, either in Saxon areas or on the continent. Indeed prior to the Norman conquest, the only trace found of any such ball game comes from a Celtic source.


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