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An early reference to a ball game that was likely football comes from 1280 at Ulgham, Northumberland, England: 'Henry... while playing at ball. . ran against David'.

The majority of the very early references to the game speak simply of 'ball drama' or 'playing at ball'. This reinforces the concept that the games played at the time didn't necessarily involve a ball being kicked.

On November 6, 1869, Rutgers faced Princeton in a game which was played with a round ball and, like all early matches, used improvised rules. It's usually regarded as the first game of American intercollegiate soccer.

The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of annual Shrovetide football matches throughout Europe, especially in England. An early reference to a ball game played in Britain comes from the 9th century Historia Brittonum, which describes 'a celebration of boys ... playing at ball'.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is considered to have been adapted from a Greek team game called 'ἐπίσκυρος' or 'φαινίνδα' , which is cited by a Greek playwright, Antiphanes and later referred to by the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria . These games appear to have resembled rugby football. The Roman politician Cicero describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber's shop. Roman ball games already knew the air-filled ball, the follis.

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