The most popular sport around the globe boasts of having an incredibly rich and impressive tradition. England is traditionally believed to be the cradle of soccer, so it comes as no surprise that the first soccer clubs originated in England, as well. If you are eager to find out more about them, you are in the right place.
First, we’ll take a quick look at the brief history of soccer to learn how the “beautiful game” came to be. Then, we’ll look into which five soccer teams are considered to be the first in history.
How Soccer Originated
Before we get into more detail about the first soccer clubs, let’s see how this sport came into existence.
According to some sources, the game resembling soccer that featured a ball (made out of a rock, though) was first played around 1,000 BC in Mesopotamia. However, this game was far from the fair play game we know today. The captain of the losing team would be presented as a sacrifice to the gods. Yikes.
Similar games were also taking place in Ancient Greece, Rome and China. However, a team game bearing the most resemblance with soccer is associated with England and the 12th century. In addition to kicking the ball, it also involved punching it. (Yes, that’s how rugby originated, too.)
Finally, the mid-19th century saw soccer and rugby as becoming two separate sports, and it was then that the English Football Association was formed. So it should come as no surprise to see English soccer clubs dominate our list of the world’s first five soccer clubs.
First Soccer Clubs
According to some historians, the first soccer club was created in 1824 in Scotland. However, both the English Football Association and FIFA recognize a well-known English club that still competes today as the first official soccer club.
It is quite convenient that the world’s first soccer club comes from England. After all, this is the country in which the team sport as we know it today originated. According to some claims, a soccer club representing Cambridge University was created in 1856. This is why some recognize it as the oldest club in the world.
However, some historians believe that this club had been founded even earlier. Whatever the case may be, one of the most prestigious universities in the world can claim to be the place where the first soccer club was formed.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Lots of English public schools saw games reminiscent of soccer being played on school grounds. So the pupils who went on to universities wanted to play them, too. However, each school had its own rules, so playing a uniform game was somewhat problematic.
So, when Cambridge University came forward with a list of soccer rules in 1856, this changed everything. There are lots of records testifying to the fact that Cambridge’s Blues were the first team to play in an organized manner. Each player was given an area of the pitch to control and had his role in the team which based the game on passing the ball around.
Defense and attack tactics were invented, as well as the pyramid formation – two defenders, followed by three midfielders, and five strikers. Since this formation became highly successful, it was quickly adopted as the soccer standard.
Another one of our first soccer clubs, Sheffield F.C., came into existence on October 24th, 1857. Even though this club is now based in Derbyshire, Sheffield is where it was created. There is still some dispute over which club is considered to be the first – Sheffield F.C. or Cambridge University. However, Sheffield received the recognition of being the oldest club playing soccer still in existence.
The Football Association was formed six years after the club’s creation, so at the time there were no universally accepted rules. This meant that the club had to come up with its own set of rules. These rules, called the Sheffield Rules, are believed to be the first set of printed soccer rules created by a soccer club.
Today, Sheffield F.C., nicknamed The Club, competes in the Northern Premier League (Division One South East). Their greatest accomplishment in recent history came in 1977 when they were runners up of the FA Vase.
The Rules derby between Sheffield F.C. and Hallam F.C. (that will also make an appearance on our list) is a town derby that was first played in 1860. This event is also considered to be the world’s oldest fixture. The last time these two teams met was in 2012 as they have been playing in different divisions since.
Another English club that can take pride in having a long tradition is Hallam F.C. Established in 1860, this soccer club is considered to be the second oldest existing association soccer club in the world.
All great soccer rivalries involve two clubs, typically coming from the same city. (Albeit, there are also those involving two most popular clubs in the country. Need we say more than El Clásico? Well, Hallam F.C. takes this one step further. The club was created to be Sheffield F.C.’s rival as this team had been formed three years earlier! As we already mentioned, this rivalry led to the creation of the own soccer derby called the Rules.
Hallam F.C. had quite a few successful seasons in its initial years. The team even won the Youdan Cup in 1867. This competition was considered to be one of the first soccer tournaments across the globe.
And here’s a fun fact related to the Youdan Cup trophy. It happened to be misplaced and no one knew of its whereabouts for more than a century. Then in 1997 it turned up when an antiques collector sold it to the club. How it had come into his possession and where it had been for more than one hundred years is still a mystery.
The Countrymen had their first Football Association appearance in 1911 in the Amateur Cup. Even though the WWI started in 1914, the club continued competing until 1917. After a two-year hiatus, Hallam returned in 1919 and went on to achieve one of the greatest results in club history in 1925. The victory over Bishop Auckland, five-time Amateur Cup champions in front of the 2,000 strong audience is still considered to be one of their most significant achievements.
Notts County F.C.
Founded in 1862, Notts County Football Club is yet another English club on our list. There are only twelve soccer clubs that can claim to be the founders of the Football League in 1888. Notts County is one of them.
However, their initial season was not so successful – they finished it in the eleventh position. Their greatest result in the League came in 1891 when they ended it in the third place, and they repeated the results ten years later, in 1901.
Nicknamed the Magpies because of their black and white jerseys, the team played on various grounds before relocating to Meadow Lane in 1910 where they still play their home matches even today. An interesting piece of information is that Italy’s legendary Serie A club, Juventus, derived their jersey colour combination from Notts County’s.
Now, let’s see some interesting facts about probably one of the best of the first soccer clubs. Their greatest victory came in 1885 when they won over Rotherham Town in the Cup with an incredible 15-0. However, the 11-1 win over Newport County in the League in 1949 is nothing short of impressive, as well.
Probably the most legendary Notts County player is Albert Iremonger who had as many as 564 appearances in the black and white kit. He played for this soccer club for 22 years, from 1904 to 1926. Towering the best scorer list is Les Bradd who managed to hit the net a total of 125 times during his nine seasons in the club.
Stoke City F.C.
You might not know that Stoke City F.C. was originally known as Stoke Ramblers back in 1863 when it was founded. The first name change happened in 1878 when the club became Stoke after the merge with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club, and then Stoke City in 1925.
Along with Hallam F.C. and ten other clubs, the Potters were the founding members of the Football League. The first two seasons were rather unsuccessful, to put it mildly. Stoke finished in the last position on both occasions. However, some notable victories were going to ensure in the years to come. Right now, this club participates in the English second-tier soccer league, the Championship.
The greatest success came in 1972 when Stoke City managed to defeat Chelsea in the League Cup final with 2-1. In 2008, the club managed to finally enter the Premier League for the first time and stay there for ten uninterrupted seasons. One of the best and most notable results during this period includes the second place in the FA Cup Final 2011.