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History of Football - The French

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. How did it start and why is it so popular ?
To answer those questions, we'll go back in time.



The Romans introduced "Harpastum" into France around 50 BC. The Celts in Gaul (northern part of France) took the game and developed their own version called "seault", also known as "soule" or "choule". Apparently, the nobility called the game "La Soule" and ordinary people called it "La Choule". The name refers to "la soleil" (the sun) and means symbolic the victory of the Gaul against the Romans. Earliest reports of the game date back to the 12th century. It was very popular in Brittany, Normandy and Picardy, later it was exported to England.

"Soule" (Brittany) or "Choule" (Normandy) was often competed between two entire villages with hundreds of people playing the game together. The aim of the game was either to bring the ball back to just in front of the teamís parish church, with or without the use of sticks, or to deposit the ball in front of the opposing teamís parish church, which was sometimes quite far. It could be the length of two streets or the distance between two towns and entailed going through fields, forests and over rivers and streams. Occasionally, but not always, there were posts. The game was started at the geographical border between the two parishes. It was also sometimes organized between teams of single versus married men. The size of the team could vary from 20 to 200 players. Nothing was forbidden by the rules, and the game could last for several days, until the players were completely exhausted. It was a violent game and biting, scratching and punching were quite commonplace. It was believed touching the choule would bring good luck. The player carrying it at the end of the game, was allowed to keep it as a trophy. Legends mention that the village who won, may use the best field or shall have a good harvest.

Originally, the object was a pig/cow bladder with oil on it. The ball was quite heavy and made with a stitched leather skin, it was stuffed with more leather and bran, straw, wood, foam or hay. Sometimes it was doctored with copper nails and/or leather bands with the colors of the village, region, province where the game was played.

Due to the violent nature of the game, King Philip V of France banned it in 1319. King Charles V of France again prohibited the game in 1388, although this really did not stop the game being played in France at all. In 19th century, all games were definitely prohibited.

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