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Many have traced the game to China during the Han Dynasty, in the 200s C.E. The Chinese played a game called “cuju,” literally “kickball,” which bears some resemblance to the modern game. It was played with a stitched ball which was often kicked into goals. Its resemblance ends there. From there, similar games sprouted up in Asia, from the Malay Peninsula and Japan to the Pacific Islands and Australia. Across the oceans, in the Americas, and particularly Central and South America, ball games were standard throughout just about every civilization from the centuries B.C.E. all the way to Cortez. Mesoamerica also had the only ancient balls that bounced – because only Mesoamerica (at the time) had rubber. Europe, on the other hand, had little to no ball games in its ancient cultures. The lone standout was the Celtic-speaking cultures of northwestern Europe. During the period between the 1400s and 1600s in England, football, which had sprung out of various Celtic ball games, was actually banned by the English kings several times – it was a game of peasants, and thought to incite sin and violence.

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