How Did an Illegal Play Lead to the Invention of Football?

During the 19th century, soccer was a popular sport at many English schools. In soccer, a player is not allowed to touch the ball with his hands. But then in 1823, a young student at the Rugby school picked up the ball during a match and ran with it.

Word spread through England of what he had done, and students at other schools began to play a new kind of soccer that allowed a player to touch the ball with his hands. This game eventually became the sport of rugby.

During the later part of the century, both soccer and rugby were played in the United States. Then, some students at Harvard University began to play a new sport, called the “Boston Game,” that was different from both soccer and rugby.

By 1888, the new game of “football” was being played with 11 players on a team, with the familiar egg-shaped ball. In 1906, the forward pass was made legal, and football then became basically the same sport we know it today.