Why is football the most popular sport?

By | November 11, 2022

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Football is the most popular sport in the world. And it's one of the oldest. According to estimates, of the around 7.6 billion people making up the global population in 2018, 1.1 billion of them watched the 2018 World Cup final.

As Jon Mackenzie explains the reason behind football’s popularity may lie in its simplicity. Illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.

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Music sourced from epidemicsound.com
Additional footage sourced from freestockfootagearchive.com

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On the fifteenth of July 2018, France beat
Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup. If you were alive on that date, there is a
one in seven chance you watched the game itself. According to estimates, of the around 7.6
billion people making up the global population In 2018, 1.1 billion of them were watching. The popularity of football is hard to ignore. It is spoken about in offices, in pubs, on
radio shows, in the newspaper. Walking around a major city, it would be almost
impossible to miss the replica shirts worn By people on the streets and the magazine
racks crammed with coverage of the game. So football has become an inescapable aspect
of modern life. What is less obvious, perhaps, is why? When talking about the global appeal of football,
it is tempting to focus on a very specific Tradition of the game which emerged within
medieval England and was eventually codified In the mid 19th century. But it is important to remember that the fascination
with taking a round object and kicking it About has existed in many cultures and for
much longer. There is evidence of ball games being played
in Mesoamerica around 3000BC, and in Egypt And Greece a thousand years later. When it comes to games in which the ball is
kicked with the feet, these took a little Longer to develop. The Chinese game of Cuju – which literally
translates as “kick ball” – is the earliest Known recorded form of football, with descriptions
of the game appearing in a Chinese military Work from the third century BC. There is also the suggestion that a form of
ball game existed that may have predated Cuju, Materialising from within early Aboriginal
culture in Australia. Regardless of how you parse the origins of
these different forms of football, one thing Is certain. Whatever the time, whatever the place, when
people have seen a round object, they have Wanted to kick it with their feet. And it is perhaps the simplicity of that desire
– seeing a ball and wanting to kick it – which Goes some way towards explaining how the game
of football would end up being the most popular Sport in the world at the outset of the 21st
Century. The fact of the matter is that football doesn’t
get much more complicated than that initial Need to kick a round object. You can cobble together a ball out of almost
anything – balls have been made out of leaves,

Old clothes, animal skins, pigs bladders,
rubber, even rocks. And beyond that, all you need is space. It doesn’t even need to be a wide open space. You can play almost anywhere. A beach. An abandoned car park. You can play on the side of a hill. You can play in the space between buildings. You can throw down a couple of jumpers for
goalposts almost anywhere in the world and Start a game. And people do. There are numerous stories about professional
players of the game being formed by the environment Within which they began playing. A youngster playing in the confines of a small
urban space learning close control or developing The skills necessary to navigate an awkwardly
placed lamppost or a curb that cuts across The penalty area. This material simplicity points to another
aspect of football’s universality. Its accessibility. For many other sports, there can be barriers
to entry. To play tennis, you need a racquet and a net. To play golf you need a set of clubs and a
golf course. To play basketball, you need a hoop. Cricket and baseball require equipment and
appropriate playing areas. You can also play competitively with no more
than a couple of people. You can explain the game in a sentence or
two. You can get first-time players enjoying the
game in a matter of minutes. It is a game that invites being played at
the drop of a hat. And this material simplicity extends to the
players. Anyone can play. And not just in the sense that anyone can
enjoy the game if they play it. Football at the highest level is played by
entirely different profiles of player. It’s not simply the case that physical superiority
trumps all. You can find a place on the pitch if you are
6 foot 6 or 5 foot 5. There are different skill sets required by
players that makes football one of the most

Accommodating sports in the world. So why is football so popular? Perhaps the answer to this question is simply
“Because it allows itself to be so popular.” The simplicity and accessibility of the beautiful
game means that there is something there For everyone.