On 15 July 2004, FIFA officially recognized China as the birthplace of football.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, speaking at the opening ceremony for the Third International Football Expo in Beijing, announced that the organization agreed with the findings of the Chinese Football Association who dated the origins of the game back to approximately 300 B.C. in the city of Linzi in the Shandong Province. At that time, Linzi was the capital of the Qin dynasty.
The ancient Chinese of that period played a sport known as cuju (literally translated as "kick ball"), in which teams from two to 16 people per side competed by kicking a ball stuffed with feathers and hair into small nets placed at the end of bamboo canes. The players could use any part of the body except the hands.
The game grew in popularity through the subsequent Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), which standardized the game and even used it as part of a military training program. In the Tang dynasty (618-907), when the feather-and-hair stuffed ball was replaced with an air-filled one, the sport's popularity continued to increase into all sections of society, including women. It also extended into Korea and Japan. Professional teams developed in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and the sport became strictly regulated.
Cuju began to decline in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Around 1900, modern football was introduced, leading to the creation of the CFA in 1924.