Players on every continent get a kick out of the world's game

It is known as bollfoer in Finland, calcio in Italy, fussball in Austria, and ftbol in Argentina. In the United States, it is simply called soccer.

The world's most-played sport has roots in most cultures, which independently devised a variety of often brutal games in which a round ball was propelled by feet or hands. But the game of soccer proper came from the British Isles. Soccer had begun to evolve from field games played at English private schools and was adopted by others, so that in 1855, the world's first soccer club was founded in Sheffield, England.

However, there were still so many variations of the rules (many of which incorporated elements of rugby) among different clubs that 13 club representatives from across England met Oct. 26, 1863, to standardize a set of common rules. On Dec. 8 the rules of soccer were unveiled.

The game has remained essentially the same since, apart from significant evolutions such as the introduction of a referee (1870), goal keepers (1871), and the "off-side" rule (1907). In 1885 it became legal for the clubs to employ professional players.

The game rapidly spread among the middle and working classes. Traders and other international travelers took the game to every corner of the globe. The first football club in Argentina, for example, was founded in 1867.

The game is now played on every continent and is considered the world's most popular game. The sports governing body, the Fdration Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA), often boasts more member nations than the United Nations. The World Cup, played every four years since 1930, is the world's most watched television event.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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