1902 Encyclopedia > Football


FOOTBALL is a game which consists, as the name im-plies, in giving motion to a ball with the feet alone. It has been aptly designated the " winter game " of Great Britain, and justly takes the place of cricket from Michael-mas to Lady Day. The ball requires to be larger than in all handball pastimes, in order that it may be easily kicked. This was accomplished in ancient times by inflating a bladder or skin termed follis. In Greece the iwLo-Kvpos seems to have borne a resemblance to the modern game. Of this we read in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities—" It was the game at football, played in much the same way as with us, by a great number of persons divided into two parties opposed to one another." Amongst the Bomans the harpastum, derived from the Greek verb ap7ra£co, to seize, thus showing that carrying the ball was permissible, bore a certain resemblance. Basil Ken-nett, in his Romas Antiquos Notitia, terms this missile a " larger kind of ball, which they played with, dividing into two companies and striving to throw it into one another's goals, which was the conquering cast,"—a description which, if correct, certainly bears a strong resemblance to the modern game of football. The antiquity of football in Great Britain (introduced, there can be little doubt, by the Bomans) goes some centuries farther back than cricket, probably because the requisites—only an inflated ball and rude goals—were fewer and simpler than in the summer game. The birthplace of the latter was in the southern counties, that of football in the north. In early times the great football festival of the year was Shrove Tuesday, though the con-nexion of the game with this particular date is lost in obscurity. William Fitzstephen, in his History of London (about 1175), speaks of the young men of the city annually going into the fields after dinner to play at the well-known game of ball on the day quce dicitur Carnile-varia. As far as is known this is the first distinct mention of football in England. A clear reference is made " ad pilam .... pedinam " in the Botuli Clausarum, 39 Edward III. (1365), memb. 23, as one of the pastimes to be prohibited on account of the decadence of archery, and the same thing occurs in 12 Bichard II. c. 6 (1388). Down to the end of the first quarter of the present century Shrove Tuesday continued to be the high festival of football, but it had never taken root, like cricket, amongst the aristocracy and gentry. It was confined to the middle and lower classes. No clubs or code of rules had been formed, and the sole aim seems to i have been to drive the ball through the opposing side's goal I by fair means or foul. So rough did the game become that j James I. forbade the heir apparent to play it, and describes the exercise in his Basilikon Doron as " meeter for laming 'o than,,making able the users thereof." Both sexes and all ages seem to have taken part in it on Shrove Tuesday; shutters had to be put up and houses closed in order to prevent damage; and it is not to be wondered that the game fell into bad repute under such violent horse-play and eccentric usages. Accidents, sometimes fatal, occurred; and Shrove Tuesday " football-day" gradually died out about 1830. For some thirty years football was only practised at the great public schools, at which there were, as still, two distinct forms of play. The Rugby game, so aptly described in Tom Brown's School Days, resembles the Roman harpastum and the rough Shrove-tide play, since seizing and carrying the ball, charging, and one player's holding another are freely allowed, and actual hacking was abolished at Rugby only as lately as 1877. Harrow and Winchester are the chief exponents of the game wherein kicking alone is allowed as a means of propulsion. Eton plays a hybrid game in two different ways, viz., " At the Wall" and "In the Field," the latter being a sort of mixture of both kinds of play. All other schools have arrayed themselves under one or other of these banners, with slight modifications in their rules. About the year 1860 when the great volunteer movement and the institu-tion of amateur athletic sports gave a zest to many kinds of exercises, there came a revival of football amongst old public school and university men. It was soon found that a universal code of rules and a society to legislate on matters of dispute were necessary. Followers of the strict foot game were the first to recognize these wants, and the " Football Association " was accordingly formed in 1863, the exponents of the other method not banding themselves together till the " Rugby Football Union " was instituted in 1871.

Football has extended most rapidly throughout the United Kingdom during the past few years, as is evinced by the fact of all large towns, villages, and schools now possessing football clubs, and has regularly taken the place of cricket during the winter months. It is a game more adapted to youths than to middle-aged persons, and should not be indulged in after the frame is full-grown and set, when the tumbles and scrimmages incidental to the Rugby code are apt to be baneful. The balls are now made of inflated india-rubber bladders, covered with strong leather laced together, the Rugby balls being ellip-tical or egg-shaped, and the Association ones a perfect sphere.

The two games may be briefly described thus :— Under the Eugby code a level piece of turf is the scene of action, and iifteen a side the usual number of players—ten " forwards," two " half backs," one " three-quarters back," and two " backs." Each goal is composed of two upright posts, exceeding 11 feet in height, and placed 18J feet apart, with a cross-bar 10 feet clear from the ground. The choice of goals is decided by lot, the side which wins the choice either availing themselves of any favourable breeze or gradients which may prevail, or electing to play at a disadvan-tage for the first period of the game till " half time " is called. The game is commenced by the opposite side to that which has choice, of goals kicking off' the ball (placed on the ground) from midway between the two goals. The object of both sides then is to drive the ball over the cross-bar, and between the line of the two upright posts of their opponents' goal, which achievement constitutes " obtaining a goal." This can be accomplished either by a player's touching the ball down behind his adversaries' goal line, then carrying it out, and thus obtaining a " try " or place kick at goal, or by kicking a goal with a direct drop-kick instantly the ball rebounds from the ground. A match is decided by a majority of goals ; if their number be equal, by a majority of tries; and if none of either be obtained, the match is drawn. The other minutiae are so numerous that no less than sixty rules are required for their regulation.

The intricacies of the Association game are far fewer, and only require a very plain set of thirteen rules. No handling or touch-ing the ball, except by the goal-keeper, is permissible, '' dribbling " or kicking with the feet being the sole mode of propulsion. The goal posts are 24 feet apart, and the cross-bar only 8 feet from the ground, the ball in this case having to be driven under the latter in order to obtai a a goal. ; - Tries " are unknown, and the gaining of goals is the sole point whereby the game is decided.

The rules of both games will be found in most football works, the chief of which are Routledge's Handbook of Football, 1867 ; C. W. Alcock's Football Annual, annually from 1868 ; Alcock's Football, Our Winter Game, 1874; G. H. West's Football Calendar, annually from 1874. (H. F. W.)

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