Is it true that soccer was originally played with a human head?

I’ve heard that soccer – or football, as you unwashed heathens outside the borders of America call it :smiley: – is one of the oldest sports on earth, and was originally played after ancient wars, when the victorious army would decapitate a fallen enemy and kick the head around the battlefield. Is there any truth to this?


There are many theories as to how the game of football (or soccer, as you Imperialist Yankee Bastards call it :D) evolved. The insitutionalised game we know as football these days seems to derive from early 19th century English rugby.

That doesn’t mean there are more ancestors to it. After all, the concept of kicking a round object around is universal enough to pop up in various corners of the world.

This means that there are many answers to the question “Where did soccer come from?”.

Here’s one that cites various origins.

It’s not unthinkable that an ancient society kicked the heads of their opponents around, and it’s not unthinkable that someone linked that with the game of football at one point or another. But I don’t think it’s a fair generalisation to say that soccer originated solely from kicking skulls around.

In addition, one must consider the logistics. I mean, a human head is not the ideal shape for booting around a field. You’d get pulpy bits before halftime!

From Cecil’s Why is a football called a pigskin?

There was some Paul Harvey story about the birth of football being when some Englishman long ago found a Danish skull and started kicking it around out of spite. Goodness knows if there’s any truth to it or not, but lots of people must have heard that story.

Soccer (Association football, that is, to anyone who really knows where the word ‘soccer’ comes from :wink: ) did not derive from Rugby football. Rugby, a school in England, and one or two other schools established as their common rules the rules used by the Rugby school for playing football after the great divide occurred around 1865 between those schools favoring physical tackling and those favoring non-physical tackling (there were other style differences as well, such as whether or not to allow a player to pick up and carry the ball). The by far greater group (at the time) of schools produced common rules which lead to the formation of the Football Association (the FA), which still exists. Rugby and some others went a different way.

Of course, if you are Italian, the game is calcio and has been around since the middle ages … :wink:

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this, but the John Huston film “The Man Who Would be King” features a couple of games played with the head of one of the vanquished (wrapped in a sheet, it sees). I suspect this is where a lot of people get the idea.

I have no idea if there’s any truth to it, but I can easily see it happening. The fact that the “ball” is irregular and wouldn’t roll straight would be secondary to the thrill of literally playing with your opponent’s head.

Not if you had killed off Charlie Brown… (ducking and running)

Isn’t the game in The Man Who Would Be King on horseback, like polo?