Football refers to a number of sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball with the foot to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football is understood to refer to whichever form of football is the most popular in the regional context in which the word appears: association football (also known as soccer) in the United Kingdom and most of the non-English speaking world; gridiron football (specifically American football or Canadian football) in the United States and Canada; Australian rules football or rugby league in different areas of Australia; Gaelic football in Ireland; and rugby football (specifically rugby union) in New Zealand. These different variations of football are known as football codes.
Various forms of football can be identified in history, often as popular peasant games. Contemporary codes of football can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The influence and power of the British Empire allowed these rules of football to spread to areas of British influence outside of the directly controlled Empire, though by the end of the nineteenth century, distinct regional codes were already developing: Gaelic Football, for example, deliberately incorporated the rules of local traditional football games in order to maintain their heritage. In 1888, The Football League was founded in England, becoming the first of many professional football competitions. During the twentieth century, several of the various kinds of football grew to become among the most popular team sports in the world.