When was the first game of football?

Britain likes to lay claim to inventing football, but it turns out that humans  enjoyed kicking balls about before Britain even existed.

When was the first game of football? © Getty Images

The 2,000- to 3,000-year-old Chinese game Cuju (or Tsu’ Chu) is the earliest incarnation of the beautiful game, according to FIFA. It involved kicking a ball – animal skins stuffed with hair or feathers – into a net, with no hands allowed.


It was probably used for military training, and was more sophisticated than the European mob-football popular in medieval times, which involved unlimited numbers of players using pretty much any means necessary to get an inflated pig’s bladder to a marker at the end of town.


Nor was Cuju the only such game to precede modern football, and their rules – insofar as we know them – feature varying levels of teamwork, cooperation and violence. The Japanese had Kemari, the Greeks had Episkyros and the Roman had Harpastum, to name a few.