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Mythbusting: Association football already existed in the early 19th century

A proof that (a) regulated football existed before Thomas Arnold supposedly „invented“ rugby football for Rugby School and (b) that association football existed in Wales as early as 1811.

„with the feet, instead of the hands“

„Foot-ball. This pastime is so called because the ball is driven about with the feet, instead of the hands. […] When a match at foot ball is made, two parties, each containing an equal number of competitors, take the field, and stand between two goals, placed at the distance of eighty or an hundred yards the one from the other; the ball is made of a blown bladder, and cased with leather; is delivered on the midst of the ground, and the object of each party is to drive it through the goal of their antagonists. The abilities of the performers are best displayed in attacking and defending the goals; when the exercise becomes exceeding violent, the players kick each others shins without the least ceremony, and same of them are overthrown at the hazard of their limbs.”

Various types of football exist in parallel

At the same time, there was also Shrovetide Tuesday Football in Chester. „About the year 1750, this sport was practiced in the principal of the tanners, during the frosts in winter; each person having a piece of oak bark tied over their shins, to prevent them from being injured by the kicks of their opponents; and a person was employed to collect from the spectators, urging, that being out of employ, they were obliged to solicit their donation towards their relief.“
In other words: either you play along or you have to donate some money. It’s not that different from today. It’s just that you can’t decide whether you want to play or not.

(Source: North Wales Gazette, 27th June 1811.)

Modern Football, 1811?

It is not a football code, but only a description of a game, but it shows that regulated association football existed before rugby and Eton.

  • Equal number of players
  • Two goals
  • 80-100 yd pitch size
  • Kick-off from centre circle
  • Goal: the ball has to get into(!) the goal (not over the goal)
  • No carrying of the ball allowed

The last two points in particular show that this type of game differs from Shrovetide Football and also football at Rugby School.

The paragraph on Shrovetide Tuesday football in Chester also shows that a certain degree of profitability is not a matter for entrepreneurs of the late 19th century and that spectators had to pay admission even over 200 years ago.

Kategorie: Regelgeschichte


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