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As I See It.. (20 June, 2006)

20 June, 2006

Football and FootballersWe appear to be in what is described as “World Cup Fever. This gives the erroneous impression that watching the game could be infectious, and therefore to be avoided. I assure you this is not the case. Far from it! It is a healthy, invigorating, and boisterous form of physical exercise, but the last few decades the world-wide passion for Football Cup match events has become wild and over heated. Let us consider the excitement through which we are currently passing.

Football is a game of antiquity, known to and played by some ancient peoples. The Greeks conceived and played a form of football which they called harpaston, and the Romans played a similar game, spelt almost the same, only one letter differing, harpastum. In medieval times a form of football known as calico flourished in Italy. Natives of Polynesia (islands in central and south Pacific Ocean) are known to have played a variety of the game with a football made of bamboo fibers, and the Inuit (Eskimos) played a form of football with a leather ball filled with moss. I presume they played on ice, or did they wait for a thaw? In any case the ball they devised sounds curious. How did they manage to scrape so much moss into a small leather bag, and what was the nature of the game, and by what rules was it governed?

Most modern versions of football, however, originated in England, where a form of the game was known in the 12th century. In subsequent centuries football became so popular that some English monarchs, including Edward II and Henry VI, forbade the game on the ground that it took interest away from the military sport of archery. Few people I think are aware today that at that remote time archery - releasing arrows from a bow - was the manliest sport of all, and a Statue required that all able bodied men from the age of 15 upwards should keep up the regular practice of archery, ready to be “called up” in the event of war. To the archers of King Henry V of England may be attributed the victory at the battle of Agincourt!

Football grew steadily in popularity. At the beginning of the 19th century, several types of the game—all permitting players to kick the ball, and ‘dribble’ it, and toss it from one foot to the other, and head it thither and yonder. The object was always and attempt to elude the opponent, pass the ball continually from one to another, and maintain that effort to get the ball right up to the enemy’s “goal”, and slam it into the net! But on no account could a player on the field touch or carry the ball.

The game of football we are talking about reached a popularity that seemed to know no bounds, until all the great public school of England, notably Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Charterhouse et al took up the game, and fierce competition raged, and the schools, and later other institutions organised tournaments which produced champions.

One eminent school introduced radical modifications to the rules of the game. This was Rugby, after, in 1823, a genius of a Rugby schoolboy disregarded the established prohibition, tucked the ball under his arm, dashed across the field, and deposited it between the goal posts of the opposing team. Thereafter numerous football clubs sprang up in England, some playing the kicking game, others the ball-carrying game. In 1863 a number of clubs devoted to the kicking game met in London, organized the London Football Association, and adopted a Code of uniform rules; this type of game was henceforth known as association football, and later Soccer, derived from the ward Association. This is the “football” which is causing all the hullabaloo every day, until the World Cup Final is played on 10 July 2006, when the winning team becomes champions for four years, after which the whole noisy but wonderful process will start all over again!

I have never been an outdoor sportsman in my life, but quite a worthy spectator from time to time. Over the decades I have “supported” certain national Football teams in the World Cup series, which took my fancy, depending up to a point on the colour of their shorts, and the acrobatics they could display.

After the degradation of the Olympic Games, “professionalism”, in my view, besmirched all sport, and allied activities. An athlete was expected to exhibit his prowess and skills of strength, endurance, style an grace, as an amateur, that is to say a lover of sports for their own sakes, and not exhibit himself as some cheap entertainer, performing for money!

Mention any sport you wish, be it cricket, tennis, golf, swimming, or even bicycling - all of them, and many others as well, are controlled by syndicates or Big Business. Football seems to be the worst offender. Its players are snatched away from one Club to another, after enormous amounts of money have exchanged hands. Thousands are just to pay bar bills, and some and sums run into millions, perhaps even billions, and this rank commercialism has turned decent sportsmen into greedy money grabbers, and completely destroyed the spirit, flavour, and character of the game.

Ever since the World Cup series was launched in Uruguay in 1930, various countries came forward to join the Football International Federation Association. And a tradition of fellowship, competitiveness, and national pride were established. But all these clean and healthy attributes were gradually eroded until a stage was reached when the march authorities could not control the drunkenness and hooliganism of large sections of the spectators. Watching a football tournament seemed to being out the vilest side of a man’s nature.

Nationalism, in its pejorative sense, appears to be on the wane among lovers of football. National ‘pride’ was a good thing, and to be encouraged, but how could it last? Consider the feelings of an English fan of a club such as Arsenal, or Chelsea, for example, who discovers that all the members of the club’s team are foreigners! Or a German fan rise to cheer the goalkeeper of his team after a magnificent save, only to realise that the goalkeeper is really a Mexican? One can go on and on citing examples.

All this must appeal very strongly to those who support multi-racialism, and globalization. But what about the likes of us, who tread this lousy earth in search of a little fun and enjoyment...

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