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"It matters a great deal who is going to win, but not at all who won"

Willie John McBride, Irish Rugby player

The Early Development of Football

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Graham Curry,Ed., London, Routledge, 2019 ISBN: 978-0-367-26253-2

The book consists of a series of essays on the origin of football in USA, Germany, Australia and several parts of England such as Stoke, Lincolnshire, Shrewsbury, Winchester and the North East. It will be of real interest to the student of the history of sport.

An unexpected bonus for a website specializing on the relationship between sport and Christianity was the large number of references to the role of Christians in the development of football in the early days.

Football played in Massachusetts in 1848 had a “physicality, rowdiness and a resistance to evangelical Christian norms” as a result of which a passing a clergyman caught the ball and kicked it away, we are told, but mainly the relationships between football and Christianity report in the book were positive. For example:

• The president of the Dresden Football Clubin Germany in 1874 was a clergyman and a British chaplain at Baden-Baden was also active in football.

• The YMCA and Ebenezer Moravian Mission played a part in developing football among the aboriginal people.

• In the Potteries in the midlands of England “Churches, chapels and other religious organizations also played a prominent role in the creation of football clubs during the 19th century as clerical attitudes towards sports altered from a position of opposition to one of encouragement”. Churches saw football teams as “a method of drawing the working man and their families into worship.. [and could] also encourage solidarity, commitment and loyalty”.

• Match reports of games in Lincoln in the 1860s included a number of clergy as players and administrators. The book adds: “Certainly if one required evidence to support the hypothesis that churchmen as muscular Christians stimulated the interest of the local population in sport, then it is well served by data from early football in Lincolnshire”.

• The book informs us that in the 1880s Bishop Auckland Church Institute FC was formed and several church figures appeared in the team, including future high ranking Bishops.

• In 1871, Whittington near Shrewsbury, a parish team based in Oswestry, included two reverends in their lineup, “intimating strongly at the game’s links with Muscular Christianity”. Other local clergy were mentioned as players.

• Football was introduced in Church of England controlled schools in Winchester in the middle of the 19th century “by a combination of the need to exert control over unruly schoolboys and the desire to develop the minds and bodies of the young to forge a new generation of muscular and virtues Christian gentleman”

The book index includes Anglican, clergy, chapel, church, church of England, church sports club, church men, free church, religion and YMCA, which confirms that the Muscular Christian movement led to many clergy being engaged in sport



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