Saturday, November 18, 2017

A brief history of ball games

Ancient civilisations had many ball games requiring great skill. There were many variations of football (i.e. propelled by the head and feet) which were played from China (Tsu Chu)and Japan - Kemari to Mexico. Goals took several forms including bamboo shoots, curtain holes to rings on a wall. William Fitzstephengave an account of a rough football game played on Shrove Tuesday in 1175. In Medieval England, football was more of a tussle across open countryside where team members fought out a no holes contest to kick or carry the ball across a boundary mark. Death and injury were common and from time to time state and church banned these revelries. Despite this the lawless game continued to be popular in Britain from Orkney to England. According to Manley (1992), a Scotsman described in verse a game of street football he witnessed in Lincoln (England) in 1450.

Four and twenty bony boys
Were playing at the ba'
And by it came sweet Sir Hugh
And he played o'er them a'
He kicked the ba' with his right foot
He catched it wi' his knee
And through -and-thro the jews' window
He gard the bony ba' flee.

By the late fifteenth century the Medici family had become great supporters of Calcio Fiorentinoand promoted the game among the nobility. It was during this time that football costume came into use (Manley, 1992). By the 16th century Giovanni Bardi (1580) had published the rules of an Italian game now called giuoco del calcio fiorentino. Both teams consisted of twenty-seven players and the format of the game was similar to other forms found in England.

In all probability smaller side games of football were played according to locally agreed rules. These went largely unrecorded but King Henry VIII (1491 –1547) did pay four shillings to have football boots made in 1525. This was recorded within the Great Wardrobe of 1526 and the shoemaker was Cornelius Johnson. Although they did not survive the king’s boot were thought to be ankle high and made from strong leather making them heavier than the normal shoes of the day.

As a student at Cambridge University in 1600 Oliver Cromwell was an acknowledged football player and the game was played in all the better schools and universities. During the Industrial Revolution the elementary game of football lost popularity because workers had to work long hours. Instead it thrived in public schools and Harrow was thought to be the first to introduce the idea of an eleven-aside game. In Winchester they played without goal posts and instead kicked the ball over the line. Eton College in the nineteenth century produced the earliest known set of rules for football (1815). Public schools in both UK and US played similar types of ball games. The games looked nothing like the football codes of today and were played to individual sets of rules, which reflected the institution. This made it difficult to find fixtures with outer teams. By the middle of the nineteenth century all major English public schools had developed their own rules and a meeting was held in Trinity College, Cambridge to standardise them. Hands were outlawed for carrying the ball but players could use them to stop the ball in mid flight. Goals were scored by kicking the ball between two flag posts and under a piece of string stretched between them. It was deemed a foul play to grab, trip or kick an opponent. When Sheffield accepted the Cambridge Rules in 1855, the first football club was founded in England. Later in 1863, fourteen basic laws of the game were identified when the Football Association (London) was formed. A serious debate broke out concerning the merits of players being allowed to hold opponents and hack them at the same time. The meeting broke up in disagreement. This split forged the foundation for Rugby Union. Ironically the eight rules of the early Association resemble today's rules which govern rugby union. Players then could handle the ball and hitting the ball at any height provided it fell between the goal posts constituted a goal. A try i.e. touching the ball behind the opponent’s goal entitled the player to convert. By 1891 these rules were increased to 17, including the introduction of the penalty kick. In 1937/38 Stanley Rous, Secretary of the Football Association redrafted the rules into their modern form. These were reviewed in 1997.

The origins of the name soccer are thought to have come from an Oxford footballer by the name of Charles Wreford Brown. (1863). He borrowed 'socc' from Association and added 'er' to give the term "socc'er'". This lexiconic bastardisation was common at the time and gave counter speak to the other football code rugby or "rugger". By an ironic coincidence, the Latin word for slipper is soccus and in antiquity the soccus was worn by entertainers, women and effeminate young, men. It described a simple slipper or calceoli and laterally became a sock that fitted loosely so they could be removed quickly. Soccus were commonly dyed yellow from the seed of the pomegranate. Fashion dictates have meant changes to the original soccer boot means we now have a soccer slipper which are worn by the entertainers in bright colours.

Manley D (ed) 1992 The Guinness book of records 1492: The world five hundred years ago Enfield: Guinness Publishing Ltd.

1 comment:

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