Football is believed to have started out in China, where an ancient version of the sport called Cuju was played. According to historical accounts of football detailed/outlined by FIFA, football is a sport that started and was practiced at least 2300 years ago in the Chinese city of Lin Zi. The sport started as more of a military sport that was developed for the training of the troops and also to allow for checking of the physical condition and performance of the soldiers.
Cuju is regarded as an ancient Chinese ball game. It is a competitive game involving kicking the ball through a large opening and into a net, and just like modern-day football, hands can be used when playing Cuju. But unlike modern football or soccer, Cuju features some variations in the playing and scoring style. This game is played on a rectangular field which is defined by low walls or threads, but with the typical one or two positions for the goals in the middle of the field.
This sport was quite popular in medieval China, and it was also more pervasive among the higher ranks and classes in ancient China. It was also played and enjoyed by the intellectuals, royalty, soldiers, and even the peasants. And the sport was able to enjoy the reign of a high degree of popularity for over an entire millennium throughout ancient China before it spread out to other countries. However, it faded away from about the 16th century.
The sport, Cuju, is derived from two words, Cu meaning ‘to kick’ and Ju, which means ‘a leather ball of kinds.’ It is believed that the very first version of the ball that was used to play Cuju was a small medicine ball that was filled with hair and had a small bounce. The balls also featured bladders of animals, and these would swell more and more over time. The sport also features the first goal or the elegant eye that is consistent with the very small network whose ends were made of bamboo canes with a separation in the middle. This goal shared between the teams was set up in the middle of the ocean.
There were professional Cuju teams that even the emperors counted on, as the professional teams would compete with the prisoners. So, to make these competitions bigger, they constructed large soccer fields throughout the capital, previously known as Chang’an and modern-day Xi’an. The Cuju competitions in the royal court were pretty much a huge birthday celebration.
There were two main forms of the Cuju sport, but it was largely a demonstration of both technique and also dexterity. The sport served to entertain, and there were times when the payers were female. In such cases, the sport was played with music playing, making for a whole form of celebration. And in the cases of the competitive Fuju, there were several goals that were installed on either side of the field guarded by the goalkeepers. The team with the maximum score would win.
Cuju Ancient History
Cuju’s earliest records date back to the 3rd century BC, and its records are found in the historical political textbook known as Zhan Guo Ce. This points to the belief that China was not just the birthplace of Cuju but also the home to many other practices and sports. That said, the Cuju sport is also believed to have been played in Korea, Japan, and to some degree, Vietnam.
The popularity of the sport did, however, explode during the Song Dynasty’s reign between 960 and 1279. At this time, this was everyone’s sport, and it was not played by just royalty, but essentially people of all classes who enjoyed watching and playing the sport. The professional players turned the sport into a career. That said, the scale of the sport during the period is what makes Cuju comparable with soccer/ football, and it is the earliest account of the sport. The trend continued through time.
However, its popularity decreased sharply during the reign of the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644, and at this time, the sport was only played by a rather small number of people who still fancied the sport.
When Was Cuju Invented?
Cuju is believed to have been invented as a military sport or piece of work between the 3rd and the 2nd century BC. At the time, the sport was described as an exercise.
Where Did Cuju Originate?
Historical records in Zhan Guo Ce show that the sport originated from the Warring States Era, in the state of Qi, from the Han dynasty. It grew popular during this dynasty’s reign of between 206 and 220BCE.
When Cuju Loses?
The losing team would be the one that scores the least number of goals.
How Was Cuju Played (Cuju Rules)?
The traditional Cuju version was called the Zhuqui, and it’s known for its similarities with modern-day soccer. The sport featured teams made of an average of 12-16 players, and each team would attempt to score points over the other through kicking the ball through the field to the goal. Unlike soccer, Cuju featured just one goal placed in the middle of the field. The field was made of two posts, and a stretched net was elevated between the posts and a hole cut in the middle of the post. Each of the teams would try to kick the ball through the hole from their respective sides.
In earlier days, it is believed that the sport was played with two goals in the middle of the Cuju field too, but the 1-goal version of the game was preferred to the two-goal style. But it’s unclear how many goals a team would have to score to win/
Cuju Vs. Football/Soccer
One of the differences between Cuju and football is the fact that Cuju has just one goal in the middle of the field and not 2, as is the case in football. Also, the goals in football are on the opposite sides of the rectangular field. The number of players varies too – 11 for each team in football and 12-16 per team in Cuju.
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