Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Football’s Coming Home

Here’s David, St George’s Cross a-flapping on his motorbike, a Midwesterner’s take on “The World’s Game”…

“The Beautiful Game. Well, yes and no.

Some of the ‘no’s are old hat: match fixing, diving, bungs.

The ‘no’ that's way off the public radar (though it's of course par for the course for London Walks to, er, flush it out) has to do with the origin of the game.

The party line is: ‘the beautiful game was invented in England’.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because it was. But No, because it wasn't anything like as the fairy tale version: ‘once upon a time in the green and pleasant land of England some friendly lads had a knockabout with a pig's bladder and football was born.’

A knockabout, yes. But not with a pig's bladder.

Steady now, here it comes: the beautiful game's moment of conception was probably a primitive rough-and-tumble for a sacrificial head. (Admit it, the exclamation, ‘what a beautiful header’ will never be quite the same.)

And as long as we're at it, howzabout a couple more throw-ins from hundreds of years ago. This, for example: mediaeval kings tried to put the boot in. They banned football - on the grounds that it was a street nuisance. And - insult to injury - a distraction from archery.

Our one ruler who wasn't a king (or a queen) took a different view. Oliver Cromwell was a keen footballer. Though does that come as a surprise given his special feel for the primitive rough-and-tumble for a sacrificial head?

And for two minutes added for ‘injury time’, how about this: as you'd expect the game was often red carded for ‘knavery’. And even for 'vile murder'.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

But we can't possibly let the French have the last word, can we.

So let's end with Yeats' wonderful lines about origins:

I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart
.”

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