Ancient Greek Origin
Soccer, like marathons and the Olympics, also started in Greece! In fact, it comes from two sports called Episkyros and Harpastron.
Episkyro had 12 players on either side and took up the length of a modern soccer field. Episkyros (meaning "commonball") was around as early as 800 B.C.E. and allowed for the use of hands as well as feet. The goal was to maneuver the ball behind the opponent's line (similar to soccer.) The offense could kick, throw, or carry the ball, and the defense was allowed to stop the offense by any means necessary. Full-on tackles, punching, tripping and headbutting were allowed. Players sometimes died during the game.
|Professional wrestling is SOO much manlier...|
Roman Adoption and Spread
When the Romans conquered Greece in 146 B.C.E., they took two sports and merged them together to form Harpastum. Harpastum had no set player limit - some games were reported to have hundreds of players on either side! Hands and feet were allowed, but so was an ultra-violent defense. It was to a player's benefit to use their legs to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, or risk being torn apart like a bag of Doritos at a Motley Crue concert.
|Harpastum was always played on field or sand because the players expected to be thrashed.|
If you don't believe me when I say that Harpastum was violent, watch this video. It's in Spanish, so I'm not sure what they're saying.
It looks more like a scene from Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" than a sport!
This makes me think about people who complain about American Football being too violent. Compared to these guys busting each others' heads open without pads, American Football might as well be a televised pillow fight.