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12 Vintage Soccer Photos: A Visual History of the World’s Favorite Sport

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
featured, photo & video

The US may have been knocked from the World Cup, but the beautiful game’s biggest tournament will continue to play on without us, and we’re ok with that. Really, we are. Honest.

To celebrate the tradition and legacy of the most popular sport in the world (and, now, the second most popular sport in the United States), we hit the archives to find vintage soccer photos, which show how the game used to look. And, much like just about everything else, from the uniforms to the balls, this sport has come a long way since its early days.

vintage soccer photos

The caption for this photo, via the National Archives of the Netherlands, is “Soccer on motorbikes on the footbal pitch of Crystal Palace in London, England 1923.” Why soccer was happening on motorbikes in 1923 remains a mystery.

vintage soccer photos

Another from the National Archives of the Netherlands, here are some women playing  “Damesvoetbal” (women’s soccer) in Portsmouth, Engeland, in 1917.

vintage soccer pictures

Women’s soccer has been popular for a long time, across the continents — here’s a women’s soccer team between 1910 and 1915 in the U.S. via the Library of Congress. How they played in those uniforms, though, is tough to say.

vintage soccer photos

The State Library of New South Wales provides this photo, captioned “Royal Australian Navy team plays soccer against the visiting German Navy cruiser Koln team, Lyne Park, Sydney, May 1933 / Sam Hood.” Interestingly, the men in this photo appear to have the exact same haircut as many of the men in the 2014 World Cup.

vintage soccer photos

…Ditto these guys, in 1927. According to the Galt Museum & Archives, these gents “lost 0-4.”

vintage soccer

 

In the 1930s, soccer was still pretty segregated (like most things). Here is the Vancouver Chinese Students’ soccer team of 1929-1930, via the Vancouver Public Library.

 

vintage soccer pictures

“This image is part of the Colonial Office photographic collection held at The National Archives, uploaded as part of the Africa Through a Lens project,” writes the National Archives of the UK, who don’t have a date for this East African photo.

NASA soccer

Soccer can be played anywhere — really! This photo from NASA shows STS-33 Pilot John E. Blaha playing goalie in 1989. NASA writes that this photo was taken during “an onboard soccer game using a soccer ball (stuffed toy). The game is on Discovery’s, Orbiter Vehicle (OV) 103’s, middeck. Wearing a crew polo shirt and shorts, Blaha, with open hands, dives to save ball from hitting the middeck forward lockers and passing the imaginary goal line on the cabin’s port side.”

vintage soccer pictures

Of course, a large part of soccer is being a spectator, which the National Archives of the Netherlands have captured well. These little boys seem to be on the right side of this 1931 match.

vintage soccer fans

…While these spouses in 1969 are not so much.

vintage soccer

Disappointment in soccer is as old as the game itself. Here, the NAN describes “Keeper Gejus van der Meul ashamed after letting an easy bal pass through. During a special match on crownprincess Juliana’s birthday on april 30, 1940.”

vintage soccer pictures

…But so is excitement! In this 1923 photo, players are celebrating their win — with an official, who is the man in the middle. Of course now, you’re really not supposed to touch the refs.

 

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.