Football refers to a number of sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball with the foot to score a goal. The most popular of these sports worldwide is association football, more commonly known as just “football” or “soccer”.
Unqualified, the word football applies to whichever form of football is the most popular in the regional context in which the word appears, including association football, as well as American football, Australian rules football, Canadian football, Gaelic football, rugby league, rugby union and other related games. These variations of football are known as football codes.
Various forms of football can be identified in history, often as popular peasant games. Contemporary codes of football can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The influence and power of the British Empire allowed these rules of football to spread, including to areas of British influence outside of the directly controlled Empire, though by the end of the nineteenth century, distinct regional codes were already developing: Gaelic Football, for example, deliberately incorporated the rules of local traditional football games in order to maintain their heritage.
In 1888, The Football League was founded in England, becoming the first of many professional football competitions. In the twentieth century, the various codes of football have become amongst the most popular team sports in the world.