That all players taking part for England in future international matches be presented with a white silk cap with red rose embroidered on the front. These to be termed International Caps.
N.L. Jackson, Old Corinthians football club, 1886
Whether you're a current fan of the beautiful game or new to the sport, you've probably heard the term "cap" thrown about during a televised football match. We dug a bit into the history behind the practice and wanted to pass along what we learned to you. For those unfamiliar with the term, a cap in football refers to a player's appearance in a game at the international level. The term dates from the practice in the UK of awarding a cap to every player in an international match of association football. In the early days of football, the concept of each team wearing a set of matching shirts was not universally adopted, so each side would distinguish itself from the other by wearing a specific sort of cap. For centuries many sports only used caps to distinguish between the two sides of a match, and football, as it emerged as a team sport in the middle of the 19th century in the British Isles, was no different. The concept of matching shirts and later full strips didn’t emerge until sometime after league structures began to appear in the late nineteenth century. Pictures of the 1891 FA Cup Final between Blackburn and Notts County show both teams wearing coordinated shirts and pants but no caps, so they had fallen out of use on the playing field by then.
The first official international match was in 1872 between England and Scotland, but caps didn't begin to be awarded until 1886. It was the English FA who decided to start awarding caps and the records show that N.L. Jackson, the founder of the Old Corinthians football club, was the driving force behind the movement. From then on an actual cap was awarded for each match. The color and form of the caps came out in blue velvet rather than the original white in the proposal, although they are sometimes green.
The match date was on the peak, along with the rose, which was later replaced by the English three lions emblem. Modern caps have ‘England v’ and the name of their opponents embroidered on the peak along with the year and a silver tassel.
The act of awarding a cap is now international and is used in other sports. The term "cap" has been retained as an indicator of the number of occasions on which a footballer has represented their country at the international level. Today, a "cap" is awarded for each game played and so a player who has played X games, for the team, is said to have been capped X times.
The all-time leader in senior football caps (male or female) is Kristine Lilly of the US. She has 352 caps and retired from football on January 6, 2011. Seventeen other female footballers have 200 or more international caps, while no male footballer has obtained 200 caps. Goalkeeper Peter Shilton holds the English record for most caps with 125.
The current active leaders in caps are Christie Rampone of the US, among women, with 311; and Iker Casillas of Spain, among men, with 166 caps.