Football – the world game

Football  is  the  nearest there is to  a world game.  There  are  easy reasons for this. At its most basic football  is a game  which requires the  most  rudimentary  of equipment,  a ball.  Its  rules  are  simple compared with those of other  games such as rugby or cricket.   But  it is  more  than  that.  Football is also the game  which  arguably  best combines  pure  athleticism  with the felicity  of  human  thought  and movement to which we give too often the bone-achingly dull  description “hand/eye coordination.”

Football  was  in a state of flux until the middle  of  the  nineteenth century.   Various  forms  existed.  Some codes allowed  kicking  only, others handling.   There were disputes over whether hacking and gouging were allowed.  In 1863 the Football Association was created and stopped the confusion. It was the first national sporting association which was purely  that.  The MCC in practice directed  English  cricket  and  was responsible for the laws of the game, but they were first and foremost, a private club,  as was the Jockey Club. The FA was  the first formally constituted   sporting body created to explicitly to direct  an  entire sport.

No sport has had such a rapid rise to popularity.  In the last  quarter of  the  nineteenth century  it went from a poorly organised  game,  to something  which  was recognisable as the game we  know  today.  Famous clubs  of  today were formed by Public School Old  Boys,  vicars,  boys clubs,  public  houses,  in the work place and  by cricket  clubs.  The first  international  game took place between England and  Scotland  in 1872  The world’s first cup competition, the FA Cup, was born in 1872.

In  1888 the world’s first  sporting  league was formed,  the  Football League.    International matches involving countries other than England were being played well before the First World War and   football was an Olympic  sport  from  early on in the modern  Olympiad’s  history.  Not

least,  football’s  world governing body, FIFA, was founded as early as

1904 (with no encouragement from England it has to be said).

By  1900 the top teams had become overwhelmingly professional and  club owners were often drawn from the ranks of local businessmen.  The  game had become  much more of a business than any other sport.

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