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Home History and Culture The Origin of Ancient Football
The Origin of Ancient Football
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Football, or to be more exact, soccer, was first played in China in the Han Dynasty (hàn cháo 汉朝) (206 BC –AD 220). Then, as now, the actual ball was made of leather, and inflated with hair and altother soft fillings rather than air. That the so-called beautiful game has such a long history in the celestial kingdom may come as a surprise. The astonishing fact of the matter is that it was played by both men and women. This is attested by Han Dynasty historical records and images on bricks. The sport’s emphasis at that time was on individual rather than team skills.

Football in the Han Dynasty was played on a pitch bounded by low walls on all four sides. There were 12 players on each side and two referees – chief and deputy. Han Dynasty strategists considered football, or cuju (cù jū 蹴鞠), as an effective form of military training. It helped to build up soldiers’ physique, nurture valor and acquaint them with the subtleties of attack and defense. When celebrated Han general Huo Qubing led his troops to the Gansu Corridor to fight the Xiongnu (xiōng nú) invaders, he gave orders to build and play upon a football pitch. This was an effective way of boosting troop morale as well as keeping them fit.
Female footballers appeared once more in the Tang Dynasty (táng cháo 唐朝) (618-907) at the time when air-inflated footballs, made from eight pieces of leather stitched together over an animal bladder, appeared. Women were the main exponents of a game that was actually a kind of reverse kick-basketball. Players from both teams took turns at aiming for a single, aerial, goal that hung in the center of the pitch. It was constructed out of two 10-meter-high poles, between which hung a net with an opening one meter in diameter.

The succeeding Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝) (960-1279) is regarded as the golden age of cuju in China. altBoth single- and double-goal football were played throughout, but it was the latter that became a national favorite, both at court and among the common people. Improvements in football-making technology, whereby the shell was made from 12 rather than eight pieces of leather, also gave the ball a rounder shape.

A major aspect of Song Emperor Huizong’s (huī zōng 徽宗)birthday celebrations was a soccer match between royal teams. Two referees would certainly have been warranted on these occasions, as the losing team faced flogging and having their faces smothered in yellow and white powder. Soccer matches were eventually institutionalized and incorporated into festive occasions. They commenced after all in attendance had drunk their sixth cup of wine. Being played in the spirit of performance rather than competition, they were less ferocious than Emperor Huizong’s birthday matches.

altIt was also during the Song Dynasty that football clubs, known as Yuan Societies, first appeared in China. Their players were called Yuan mates, and had the hypothetical right to transfer to other clubs. Leaving a Yuan Society, however, was no easy matter. Yuan mates seeking to play elsewhere were required to give detailed information about their coaches and previous career experience and also to pass rigorous tests of foot balling skill. One such rite of passage was keeping the ball in the air for 100 kicks off either foot.

Cuju maintained its popularity right through the succeeding Yuan (1279-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, but declined during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The rulers of China’s last imperial dynasty were of the Manchu ethnicity. They espoused archery and wrestling, preferring to inhibit team sports that could be a front for subversive groups.

中国古代足球的起源时间, 最早可追溯至二千五百年前的战国时期,《战国策.齐策》曾记载苏秦与齐宣王会面时,提及人民安居乐业, 喜欢「蹋鞠」,所谓「蹴鞠」或「蹋鞠」, 就是指一种足球游戏;「蹋」或「蹴」都是指踢, 「鞠」则是指球。它是中国一项古老的体育运动,有直接对抗、间接对抗和白打三种形式。蹴鞠流传了两千三百多年,唐宋时期最为繁荣,经常出现“球终日不坠”,“球不离足,足不离球,华庭观赏,万人瞻仰”的情景。

东汉时已有女子踢球

汉唐两代是中国古代足球发展最兴盛的时期, 发展出直接对抗的竞赛。据东汉人李尤所著的《鞠城铭》记载,对赛双方各有十二人,由正副球证执法,球场两端各设六个月洞式球门(称「鞠室」)为进攻目标,所用的足球由皮革裹毛发制成,比赛用球场称为「鞠城」。 当时不但男性参与足球运动, 部分出土文物更证明, 东汉延光二年(公元一二三年), 已有女子踢球,惟只限於表演性质并非竞赛。

到了唐朝(公元六一八至九零七年), 蹴鞠所用的皮球,由内填毛发改为由人用嘴吹气,同时用两个球门代替「鞠室」,当时这项运动并外流至日本, 日本足球书籍《游庭密抄》也曾经记载此事。

蹴鞠在宋代获得了极大的发展。施耐庵的《水浒全传》中,写了一个由踢球发迹当了太尉的高俅。小说虽然在人物事迹和性格上作了夸张,但基本上是宋代的事实。高俅球技高超,因陪侍宋徽宗踢球,被提拔当了殿前都指挥使,这要算是最早的著名球星之一了。

宋代的足球和唐代的踢法一样,有用球门的间接比赛和不用球门的“白打”,但书上讲的大多都是白打踢法。所谓“脚头十万踢,解数百千般”,就是指踢球花样动作和由几个花样组成的成套动作,指用头、肩、背、胸、膝、腿、脚等一套完整的踢技,使“球终日不坠”。由此看来,宋代的足球,由射门比准已向灵巧和控制球技术方面发展。

宋代制球工艺比唐代又有提高,球壳从八片尖皮发展为“十二片香皮砌成”。原料是“熟硝黄革,实料轻裁”。工艺是“密砌缝成,不露线角”。做成的球重量要“正重十二两”。足球规格要“碎凑十分圆”。这样做成的球当然质量是很高了。当时手工业作坊制作的球,已有四十个不同的品种,每个品种各有自己的优缺点。制球工艺的改进,促进了踢球技术的发展;而制球手工业的发展又反映了社会需要量的增加。

到了元代,关汉卿等人的散曲中记述了男女对踢足球的情景。但这种男女对踢,已不是双方寻求自身的娱乐,而是以妇女踢球作为一种伎艺供他人欣赏。

到了清代,在史籍上有关足球活动的记载,就寥寥无几了。我国古代的蹴鞠活动,自战国起经历了几千年,在汉、唐、宋时代,曾经象彗星一样,发出闪亮的光辉;后来,投入清代社会的水中,只留下一点泡沫,终于暗落了。

流行了数千年的蹴鞠的兴衰,符合人类社会发展变化、新陈代谢的历史规律。跨越时间上的历史距离,消亡的古代蹴鞠又在兴盛的现代足球中获得新生。

2004年7月15日,国际足联主席布拉特先生在第三届中国国际足球博览会上向世界正式宣布“足球起源于中国”,山东淄博被正式确认为世界足球起源地。在2006年德国世界杯期间,布拉特再次表示:“足球起源于中国,临淄是足球的故乡,不仅是你们的骄傲,是中国人的骄傲,也是全世界的骄傲,是所有喜欢足球、喜欢世界杯的人的自豪。”

2006年4月,作为德国世界杯的一部分,德国汉堡足球博物馆正式开馆,向观众展示丰富的足球历史文化,包括作为足球起源地的灿烂的中国蹴鞠文化。

 

 

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