Unlike sports "noble" as cricket, tennis, hockey and rugby, soccer is not very developed in sports clubs located in the British Empire. Thus, this discipline is still somewhat popular in India, Pakistan, North America or Australia, among others. In South Africa, British colonial import to football in 1869 and a cup of Natal was organized in 1884, but football, king sport in the townships, remains very poorly received by adherents white apartheid who prefer rugby, tennis and cricket. Football was, indeed, pointed to denounce apartheid and from April 9, 1973, a team combining players black and white represent South Africa at an international match against unofficial Rhodesia.
The British nevertheless play an important role in the dissemination of football, thanks to the workers sent around the world to carry out projects. Football is for example introduced in South America by workers on construction sites of railway lines. They go up teams and set up competitions first dedicated solely to British players, and then gradually open to players with local clubs. The case of South America is complex. There are also British clubs who practice this discipline and students from England play an important role in the introduction of football between Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Thus, football settles permanently in nations such as Uruguay or Argentina in the years 1870-1880. In North America, competitions are created in the year 1880 (1884 U.S. East Coast).
Belgium, England, where universities play a leading role, the Netherlands (first club founded in 1879), Switzerland (introduction of football in the 1860s and the first club in 1879) and Denmark (first club in 1876) are among the first countries in continental Europe affected by football.
The expansion of football is also due to travelers of various nationalities who have made visits to the United Kingdom where they were introduced to the game in France, the introduction of football is so primarily through the work of English teachers who bring their trips across the Channel linguistic rules and balloons in the school grounds. The British were also instrumental in the introduction of football in France. The action of British clubs of Paris White and Standard Rovers AC bends the Union of French Societies of Athletic Sports (USFSA) January 9, 1894, which, in line with the staid British clubs, feared an expansion of the football and its vices, such as professionalism, transfers and Paris and refused to recognize this discipline. In Germany, football is first clearly perceived as a foreign body in the nation and is scornfully nicknamed the "sport of the English" by the nationalists. However, football is rooted in the cities (the first club founded in 1887: SC Germania Hamburg), where workers and white collar workers gather around a common passion. Northern Europe is gradually contaminated between the 1870s and early 1890s, and Southern Europe (South of France included) suffered the same fate in the 1890s and the early twentieth century.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris in 1904 despite the British refusal to participate in an enterprise initiated by French leaders of the USFSA. The primary purpose of the Union is to silence other sports federations practicing French football, and it imposes in the founding texts of the federation by FIFA only nation to be recognized by the international body. The trap is turned against the USFSA in 1908. Union slams the door of FIFA, leaving its main competitor, the French Committee Interfederal (direct ancestor of the current French Football Federation), headquartered in FIFA ; USFSA become isolated but its mindset against the professionalism remains the rule until the late 1920s. The racingman Frantz Reichel and prophesy in 1922 that "the English professional football will die if he remains stationed on British soil.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, several European nations and South America allow the professional to put an end to the scandals of amateurism brown affecting these countries since the 1910s. The French international goalkeeper Peter Chayrigues refuses and a "pot of gold at the English club Tottenham Hotspur in 1913, he admitted in his memoirs that the Red Star players were well paid despite their official status amateur. Austria (1924), Czechoslovakia and Hungary (before 1930), Spain (1929), Argentina (1931), France (1932) and Brazil (1933) are the first nations (outside the United Kingdom) to authorize the professionalism in football. In Italy, the Carta di Viareggio, set up by the fascist regime in 1926, provides the transition between amateur and professional, finally adopted in 1946.
At continental level, confederations manage football. The first confederation created is that of South American CONMEBOL Founded July 9, 1916. Placed under the hierarchical authority of FIFA, confederations shall, however, maintain their independence. They all freedoms, for example, to organize at their convenience qualifications for the World Cup and to develop specific timetables, in spite of attempts to harmonize without reaching the FIFA. Cases in Africa and South America are significant. The African Cup of Nations (CAN), for example, is held every two years in high season posing problems for European clubs employing African players. FIFA has no authority to set these calendars, and only the Confederation of African expertise on this issue.
According to a count by FIFA published May 31, 2007, soccer is played worldwide by 270 million people of whom 264 500 000 players (239.5 million males and 26,000,000 females). There are approximately 301,000 to 1.7 million club teams and referees 840,000. 113 000 players are in professional status. The latter figure should be handled with caution because there are considerable differences between nations about the definition of a professional player. Germany is thus absent from the rankings of the top twenty nations at this level while other nations, less stringent definition of professional status, advanced data artificially high.
At the level of nations, China is leading with 26.166 million players practicing. Behind China, we find the United States, India, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Italy, Japan, South Africa, France and England. These figures take into account the licensees and unlicensed practitioners. Regarding the licensed players, the table below shows the data of the twelve national federations with the most registered players. Note that after the first final round of the 2006 World Cup team from France, the number of licensed players has surpassed two million in France.