"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

10 Things I Miss Most About Britain: #3 Football

Real Football?
Americans have a popular sport they call "football". The game of football has been played there for nearly ninety years! The first professional football league was started in the Excited States as early as 1920. Rumour has it there is another claim to the word "football" in a place called Europeland, but their game should really be called "soccer" because it is nothing like real football.

Ban It!
In Britain, the Romans introduced a game in which a ball was kicked around a field. It became very popular but by the 14th Century it had evolved into a very rough sport called "football". It was so rough in fact that, in 1314, it was banned by King Edward II.

A Sport for the Privileged

The game was revived and, in its modern version, the violence was transferred to the stands where fans now fight supporters of the opposing team. Two varieties of the game evolved; one played by the rules of the elite public school in Rugby and the other played by the rules of upper class Eton college. The word "soccer" was first used to describe Eton's version of the game of football. Later, other versions of the sport like Australian Rules Football, Canadian Football and, oh yes, "American Football" evolved.

500 Years
The term "football" dates back to 14th Century England; the term "soccer" dates back to 19th Century England. "Football" therefore has a five hundred year heritage advantage over "soccer". Another rumour (US origin) says that American Football dates back to the 15th Century when Italian player Christopher Columbus was transferred from Genoa to an unknown US team for a record-breaking fee.

English Football Died in 1966
By the 1860s the British game of football had its own professional association and was organized into a league. The sport continued to grow in Britain until its demise following England's World Cup win in 1966. Hold on John, what do you mean: "its demise in 1966? Football is more popular in Britain now than it has ever been!" Yes, that is true, the game of football is more popular now than it has ever been. But did anybody notice that there aren't many British players left in the league?

Football is now a big money sport in Britain. When a team wants to win trophies it brings in talent from overseas. England may never win another World Cup for the simple reason that there simply isn't a big enough talent pool of English players left in the big teams. And that is what I miss about football in Britain.

A footnote: In 1905, in South London, a football club was formed near the site of a huge glass building erected for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park (moved to the top of Sydenham Hill in 1852). The building was the "Crystal Palace". I have been a fan of that team since I was knee high. If you can say "me too" I want to hear from you.

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