The Times Online has a review of the book Uppies and Downies: The Extraordinary Football Games of Britain by Hugh Hornby. The book is a fascinating look at Atherstone Ball Game and other ancient contests that still take place in Britain.
Hornby’s take on the history of football is that too many books are preoccupied by the rules and, as a result, start in the Freemason’s Tavern in London in 1863 when the Football Association held its inaugural meeting. He concludes that game needs to be traced back farther in order to truly understand its origins.
The review of the book alone is worth a read and I can only imagine the book being equally fascinating.