The World’s Oldest Sports

Have you ever wondered where some of today’s most popular sporting codes orginated and who first played them? Many of today’s most popular sports have roots in ancient sports played by our ancestors thousands of years ago.


BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - DECEMBER 1: Argentinian forward Guillermo Stabile gets ready to kick the ball during a match in December 1933. Guillermo Stabile was the leading goal scorer (8) of the first Soccer World Cup, staged in Uruguay (13 July-30 July 1930). Stabile scored his last goal in the final but lost with his team to the host country (4-2). (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)Games resembling modern day football appear to be universal, with variations on ball games that required players to manipulate the ball using only their feet found in ancient societies across the globe. Strangely, the ancient game most closely resembling football was the Chinese game of Cuju.

Cuju, and its variations, was played in Japan, China and Korea, and involved players attempting to direct an air filled ball into a net strung between posts. Cuju became so popular that the finest players were paid to play the sport, making it the official predecessor of the multi-billion dollar industry that is modern association football.


ENGLAND - UNDATED: Douglas Jardine of England in action during a match. (Photo by Getty Images) The modern day game of cricket is believed to have evolved from a children’s game played in Europe for centuries before adults began taking a serious interest in the sport. The etymology of the word suggests that the game was first played in its present form in Holland, where it was called krik ket, or chase stick.

Some historians believe that Dutch traders used the word ‘cricket’ in order to describe a game popular amongst the Englishmen with whom they traded, and that this is how the game acquired its name. What is known for certain is that children throughout North Western Europe played variations of cricket long before the sport was first referred to in a text in 1597.


PARIS, FRANCE: Undated file picture showing French tennis legend Jean Borotra in action. Jean Borotra won the Davis Cup five times between 1927 and 1932 win the French team knowed then as 'the Musketeers'. N/B B/W (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)The modern game of tennis is thought to have originated from a similar game played by the ancient Greeks, who called the sport sphairistike. The game persisted throughout the middle ages, and was kept alive by monks who played a variation of the game in the cloisters of their monasteries.

When Major Walter Clopton Wingfield first devised the rules of lawn tennis in 1873, he named his game sphairistike in honour of the Greek origins of the game. The name proved to be too much of a mouthful for the English public, who instead chose to describe the game as lawn tennis.


UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 1: British golfer Tony Jacklin tees off in an undated and unlocated photo. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)A game with a number of similarities to golf was first recorded in the Netherlands in the 13th century. The game involved players attempting to hit a leather ball into a hole using as few shots as possible. The club used to hit the leather ball was called the ‘kolf’ in Dutch, a word that is obviously closely associated to the word ‘golf’.

The Scots also lay claim to being the creators of golf, although the first Scottish reference to the game of ‘gowf’ was made two centuries after the first recorded mention of ‘kolf’ in Holland. Historians have suggested that while the modern game of golf has its roots in Holland, bored Scottish shepherds had invented a similar game involving sticks and stones at some point in the distant past.

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