The Origin Stories of 5 of the World’s Most Popular Sports

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We’re about to let you in on the origin stories of 5 of the world’s most popular sports so you never have to wonder again!

Let’s start with our own national sport, cricket…

  • Cricket

The records of the very first game of cricket that was ever played date back to 16th-century England. Played in everywhere from farm communities to grammar schools, it wasn’t until the 18th-century when things really took off for cricket as aristocrats realised that the game provided a perfect opening for betting.

Once money was involved, it wasn’t long until the first set of agreed rules were created. The oldest remaining set of cricket laws date back to 1744 and the handkerchief that they’re on can be seen in London’s MCC Museum.

  • Basketball

The very first game of basketball was played way back in 1891 in Canada and the man behind its creation was Dr. James Naismith. A teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, he was told to create a new indoor activity for his students that would replace all outdoor activities.

He was a sports coach with a keen interest in athletic psychology, and Dr. Naismith’s goal was to create an indoor sport that required the level of precision that was required in other popular sports at that time.

It was this goal that etched his name in history as the creator of one of the world’s most popular sports.

  • Football

If you’ve ever pondered over the reasons why the rest of the world says “football” whilst Americans say “soccer”, we’re about to give you the lowdown on why this is so.

Firstly, it’s because the Americans already had a game named football when our version of football came along and, secondly, it’s because we added lots of confusion by changing its name between “soccer” and “football” a number of times.

You see; every kind of game that involved a ball was referred to as “football” in the time period leading up to the 19th century. That all changed in 1863 when the Football Association came along and created a standardised set of rules. It was this that led to the birth of the word “soccer”.

The game as we know it today was called “soccer” all over the world right up until it became more widespread in Britain, which was when we decided to change it back to just “football”. The Americans never made that change, and the word “soccer” stuck in that part of the world.

Where and when the very first game of football was played isn’t actually officially recorded, as people from all corners of the world were playing varieties of games that involved footballs from as far back as 1000 BC.

  • Rugby

Rugby’s early origins are much like those of soccer, as it was considered a game of “football” when the Romans and Greeks played it.

It wasn’t until 1823 that the sport as we know it today was really born. A young boy called William Webb Ellis, who was attending a school in the town of Rugby, England, picked up the ball and began to run with it.

It wasn’t until some time later however, in 1845, that picking up the ball and running with it became a written rule. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) was formed in 1871 and all rules were standardised.

  • Hockey

Where and when the first game of hockey was played isn’t fully known. Records tell us that the Ethiopians were playing a very basic form of the game as far back as 1,000BC. It’s also said that the Greeks and Romans played an even simpler form of the game centuries before Columbus set sail to discover the New World.  

What we do know is that hockey, as we know it today, originated in mid-18th century England. 1876 was the year that the very first Hockey Association was founded and it was then that the first set of official rules were created.

And that completes the 5 origin stories of some of our most loved sports. So the next time you go to place a bet on your favourite basketball team to win the NBA or watch Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge, be sure to remember those that created the game that you love – even it it’s just to impress your mates with your knowledge of the game!


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