From Mesoamerica to Qatar: the inexhaustible history of soccer

The current elite soccer players constitute a great publicity claim.

20 November 2022 Sunday 00:34
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From Mesoamerica to Qatar: the inexhaustible history of soccer

The current elite soccer players constitute a great publicity claim. Let them tell those who will debut these days at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Their triumphs seem to embody the modern world. Its origin, however, goes back a long time. Almost three thousand years ago, in Mesoamerica, ball was already played with a rubber ball.

Alexander the Great, for his part, was very hoarding when he practiced episkyros, a predecessor of football, as recognized by FIFA. The Chinese of the 3rd century B.C. C. already played ball with their feet. As for the Italians, the fact is that they played calcium between the 16th and 17th centuries. It was an extraordinarily violent sport, so many of those who practiced it ended up hospitalized.

Meanwhile, in Shakespeare's England, soccer claimed more deaths than fencing and wrestling. It took a few centuries for the British to invent the rules of the game, simple rules that transformed the old pitched battles into a confrontation between knights.

It was not an easy process to get everyone to apply the same criteria: some wanted less physical contact and others to continue the traditional hardness. Thus there was a split that gave rise to two different sports: football and rugby. Meanwhile, other rules changed. At the beginning there was no goalkeeper and, since the areas did not exist either, penalties could not be awarded. To show cards and change players, we would have to wait until 1970, with the World Cup in Mexico.

The British spread football all over the planet at the hands of expatriate aristocrats, bourgeois, sailors or engineers. In Spain, it was the technicians from the Río Tinto mines who founded our first club in 1889, Recreativo de Huelva. The first World Cup was attempted to be held in 1906, but it was not until 1930 that the first championship could materialize in Uruguay.

The controversy has not been lacking in the world cups. Two in particular were embarrassing for serving the interests of dictatorial regimes. The first, in 1934, was at the service of Mussolini's Italy. The second, that of 1978, would be used by Jorge Rafael Videla's Military Junta to whitewash the horror of the repression in Argentina.

Isabel Margarit, director of History and Life, and the journalist Ana Echeverría Arístegui recommend two excellent books to delve into the subject. The first of them, Historia del fútbol (Edaf), by José Antonio Bueno and Miguel Ángel Mateo, is a very exhaustive review of Spanish and international football with touches of humour. In second place, with a broader and more exhaustive perspective, in English, A Global History of Football, by David Goldblatt (Penguin), stands out.

You can subscribe to the 'Historia y Vida' podcast or become a follower through platforms such as Spotify, Google Podcast or Apple Podcast, and you will receive a notification with each new episode. Thanks for listening!



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