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Updated: 18/05/2006

History of Football - Europe

Greek Pheninda
Antiphanes, a Greek playwright, 388-311BC) mentions a team game, known as Pheninda (also Episkyros or Sphaeromachia) which may have been the precursor of the Roman Game Harpastum.

A bas-relief of ancient football is on the base of a marble column in Athens originating around 600BC. It was depicted on a 4.50 denomination stamp (Sc 1060, SG 1219) issued by Greece as part of the 1972 Olympic Games Issue of the 28th July 1972. The FDC shows Greek Athletes.

The souvenir sheet above (Sc 1789) was issued by Greece on the 6th June 1994 for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. The issue included 3 stamps, the 90 denomination stamp (Sc 1787, SG 1950) included a modern day player along with the ancient carving. The FDC cachet showed the bas-relief from the 1972 issue.

The stamp at left is one of 7 stamps issued by Sharjah and Dependencies to celebrate the 1966 World Cup. They were issued in blocks of four both perforate and imperforate. The 1/2r stamp (SG 243) shows a sixth cent BC Greek ball player.

Roman Harpastum
Harpastum, perhaps an offshoot of the Greek Games, was devised and adapted by the Roman army as a means of keeping shoulders fit. It appears to be more of a game like rugby rather than soccer. It may have been introduced into Britain directly when under Roman Rule or during the Norman Conquests. It may have been a direct ancestor of todays Florentine game of Il Calcio.
Il Calcio
Florence was founded in the 15th Century. It forebears went back to Roman days to resurrect the game of Harpastum. The first recorded game of Il Calcio was played on 10th January 1491 and the first published rules are in 1555. It may have indirectly influenced British Football as a game was played in front of the British Consul in 1766. The game was revived in 1930 and is still played as a tourist attraction today.

The stamp at right above (Sc 553, SG 778) and right below (Sc 554, SG 779) was issued on 12th December 1963 by Monaco in a series "Football through the Centuries."

The Sharjah 1/2r denomination stamp (SG 246) shows players blowing up a bladder in the 17th Century in the Italian States prior to a game of Pallo.

La Soule
La Soule was played in Brittany, Normandy and Picardy. It was commonly played on Shrove Tuesday, Sundays and Saints Day. It was banned by King Phillip V, King Charles V and the Bishop of Treguier. It was eventually banned by the Parliament of Brittany. It persisted into the 20th Century. It may have influenced British football by contact being made during the Norman Conquests.
British Folk Football
As noted above the origin of Folk Football, often known as "Mob Football", has variously been described to Roman, Celtic and Norman influences. In 1314 the Mayor of London issued a proclamation banning football as it caused such a ruckus in the city.
On 20th January 1985 Nicaragua issued a set of 7 stamps to celebrate the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The 0.50 denomination (Sc 1395, SG 2640) showed football in England at the time of the London Mayor's proclamation. Another 0.50 denomination stamp (Sc 1396, SG 2641) showed football in England in1500.

The 1/2r denomination stamp (SG 245) of the Sharjah issue showed ball games in the 14th Century.

Attempts to ban the game due to roughness and damage to property, gave way in the 16th century to claims that it was "frivolous" and a violation of the peace.

The 1/2r stamp (SG 247) at right shows a game of Football played at Barnet in Hertfordshire in 1750.

By the nineteenth century changes were occurring in society. With the industrial revolution,  workers had more leisure time and time for sport. The period in the schools was marked by the doctrine of  "muscular Christianity" and sport was encouraged.

As can be seen from the Monaco Issue (Sc 555, SG 780) the game in a Military Barracks in 1827 was still a rough and tumble affair with few rules and many injuries.

This was unsustainable as workers were unable to miss time off work. This led to increasing organisation and codification of the rules of the games and ultimately Rugby and Soccer.