Ball games were first played in Egypt 1800 BC. Some claim that ball games were played in ancient China as early as 2500 BC. There are indications that ball games in Egypt were linked to religious ceremonies.
The Greeks, Romans and Chinese all played ball games and they are considered to be the forerunners of modern football. Not much is known about Greek ball games but it is claimed that the game of Episkyro was played as early as 800 BC.
The use of hands was allowed and that suggests a closer relation to rugby than football. The characteristics like the dimensions of the pitch and the fact that 12 players formed a team are more similar to football.
Another Greek game that could be a forerunner of football is named Harpastron. But this is the Greek word for handball and not football. So we could relate Harpastron to rugby.
The Romans used the games of Episkyro and Harpastron to create a new game Harpastum.
They added kicking in the game which is essential for football. Many consider Harpastum the real forerunner of football. Harpastum was different from other ball games also because it was played with a smaller ball than other ball games.
Stitched leather skin stuffed with pieces of animal fur was used to make the Harpastum ball which was approximately 20 centimetres in diameter. Harpastum was a fast and physical game and very similar to rugby-the players had to get the ball over the opposing line to “score”.
The game travelled with Roman armies to most European countries where it became popular with the locals. So Romans were the ones responsible for bringing football to other territories. That is how it came to Britain.
Football did not have fixed rules until seven major schools of England in the early 1800’s. The game became known as “association football” and it was played back then as it is today.