Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Origins of English Crapness

I just came across a gem of a quote in David Goldblatt's The Ball is Round (great book, sadly not yet available in North America) which explains a great deal about England's lack of footballing prowess.

Various types of foot games were developed at English public schools in the first half of the nineteenth century. Many former schoolboys wanted to continue playing when they went on to university but since they all played by different rules, arguments were inevitable. An attempt to iron out differences led to the eventual codification of two entirely separate sports: one in which hands were permitted (rubgy) and one in which they were not (association football).

So far, the story is widely-known. Less well-known, though, are the internecine struggles of the association football types about whether or not "hacking" (i.e. deliberately targeting opponents' shins) should be permitted. The head of Blackheath school's Old Boys was incensed by the idea of banning of hacking, saying that to do so "will do away with the courage and pluck of the game, and I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice."

How true.

And thus, we should probably not date the demise of English footballers from the date of the Bosman ruling or the Heysel disaster, but rather from 1881 when referees were introduced.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, I disagree. I think England's footballing problems are because they confuse grit with skill and they're so very different things.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm pretty sure I've seen "The Ball is Round" in stock in a couple of Chapters-Indigo stores in Ontario. Its also available on that company's website.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Thanks, Matthew: let me rephrase - the book is not available in the US. It *is* available in Canada, though I recommend you wait until September when the paperback edition comes out.

4:51 PM  

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