Sunday 13th March 2022Final edition


Football: "jolly good fun!"

by "Borderline Xenophobic English Toff"

The history of football can be boiled down to a tale of codification by those pioneers of civilisation the Anglo-Scottish gentry, followed by innovation from the more benighted other, usually the work of the throng of urban poor (lacking in all Latin and Greek) and dastardly foreigners.

Football itself grew out of the wide-ranging, somewhat amorphous ball games which took place between different localities since time immemorial. In certain places, these games were known as "camp ball" (from French champs, meaning "field," rather than as a reference to the players' limp wrists and appreciation of mariners' garb). Eventually, the British (predominantly English) upper classes, generally being a bunch of people desperate to prove themselves as a force for civilisation - and having taken up ball games as a means to forge themselves into modern Σπαρτιάται capable of colouring the world pink (though not in a camp way) - decided to formulate a set of rules for the game. Thus, almost like the rise to dominance of DNA life depicted in Peter Ward's The Medea Hypothesis, the Football Association was founded in 1863 and proceeded to promote the snappily-titled Laws of the Game, marking the birth of "association football." Other codes had previously been developed in Cambridge and Sheffield, and Sweden would briefly develop its own variation about a decade later. All was not to be rosy in the football garden, however, and other sets of rules were formulated. Unlike non-DNA life, however, several still exist, the earliest of these being rugby (union founded in 1871, with rugby league - a flat cap-wearing, ferret-bothering version - branching off in 1895), which itself spawned other codes across the globe: American, Canadian and Australian rules football. Additionally, Gaelic football was codified in Ireland in 1885, having developed from a form of the game called caid, played in Ireland from the days when camp ball was the subject of the back pages (and ire of the chattering classes) across the Irish Sea.

"Up for the Cup!"

Lord Arthur Kinnaird.
Legendary Scottish football hardman Lord Kinnaird.

Association football was, at the time, primarily the preserve of gentlemen of leisure: the lower orders were expected to stand on the touchlines, clap politely and shout "well played, m'lud" as, for example, The Wanderers (who, as Forest, were one of the founder members of the FA) overcame the Royal Engineers in the inaugural FA Challenge Cup final in 1872. However, it was not long before the lower orders and foreign hordes took up the game. If, continuing the pained Medea Hypothesis analogy, the beginnings of the foreign domination of football represents the oxygen catastrophe of c.2.7 billion BC, football's "methane poisoning" moment would come with emergence of the first proto-professional northern sides.

A warning shot was fired across the bows of the good ship Gentleman Amateur in 1881, when Darwen, a club from a small cotton town in a Lancashire valley, reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Two years later, Blackburn Olympic, hailing from Darwen's near-neighbour, defeated the Rt. Hon. Old Etonians to take the famous old trophy up the precursor of the M1-M6 motorway system for the first time, having enjoyed a suspiciously "shamateur" training camp on the beach of the seedy seaside resort of Blackpool prior to their making the journey south. Olympic - whose playing staff were in the main drawn from the ranks of Blackburn's weaving class, and whose name came from the then-recent excavations at Olympia in Greece - were innovators of a stripe later to become the preserve of the dastardly foreigner: rather than utilising the time-honoured tactic of "running headless chicken-style towards the opponents' goal with arms linked like a courting couple," the Blackburn side perfected a style of play involving long crossfield passes to switch play. The final was won in extra time, which was optional at the time. To his credit, the Old Etonians' indomitable captain Lord Kinnaird (above) - probably the finest player of his era - agreed to carry on, thus displaying the finest of the backs-against-the-wall-chaps-stiff-upper-lip traditions of the Imperial class, like a heavily-bearded version of Michael Caine at Rourke's Drift in 1879 in the face of these white, working-class northern Zulu stand-ins. Unfortunately for the OEs, the result emulated the famous Zulu victory at Isandlwana. Like Napoleon at Waterloo in the catchy ABBA Eurovision winner, the gentleman amateurs finally faced their Blackburn Olympic and football's First Empire was dismantled.

Made in Scotland from girders

Queen's Park.
Queen's Park.

The first group of dastardly foreigners were already on the scene. By the end of the 19th century, football had spread throughout Europe, to North America and had already made inroads in what would become the wellspring of some of the sport's finest exponents, South America. However, the first group of non-English innovators came from much, much closer to home. Queen's Park, founded in Glasgow in 1867 and featuring many players whose origins lay in the wild and beautiful Scottish Highlands, had developed a precursor of today's intricate passing football and had become a major force in British football. In the 1883-84 season, the club launched a daring attempt to take the FA Cup, then mainly used as a vessel for the drinking of tea, back up to Scotland, possibly to be used as an ashtray, a novelty hat or a target for the throwing of logs. This was a serious prospect: 1878 saw the Scottish national team thrash England 7-2 at the Spiders' home ground, Hampden Park, with five of the Tartan Army's players being Queen's Park men. Standing in the Scots' way in the final were Olympic's bitter and better-heeled crosstown rivals Blackburn Rovers. Rovers - who went one better than Darwen in 1882, reaching the final - were the reassuringly middle class face of football in Blackburn at the time and, from their foundation in 1875, aimed for higher levels of glory than the East Lancashire football scene could offer. Their blue and white halved shirts were based on the kit of Malvern College (albeit Malvern College played in green and white) and allegedly formed the basis for the colours of Dinamo Moscow. It was not to be for the Scots: a 2-1 victory saw the trophy stay in Blackburn - where it would remain until 1887 - thus avoiding the possibility of unauthorised alterations to the stadium being undertaken by a host of men wearing Tam o' Shanters. Rovers overcame Queen's Park again in 1885 (the second and last time any Scottish club reached the FA Cup final), with goals from Jimmy Forrest (who scored in the first final between the two clubs) and James Brown (who got on the scene like a sex machine). In addition to being taught a lesson by the Scots, England also lost two consecutive matches against Wales in 1881 and 1882. The first of these, a 1-0 home defeat, took place in Blackburn and was refereed by the wonderfully named Segar Richard Bastard, whilst Y Dreigiau roared to a 5-3 triumph in Wrexham the following year against a much-changed England line-up. At the time, Welsh football was dominated by CPD Derwyddon (English: "Druids FC"), a side based in the village of Ruabon who, in addition to winning the Welsh Cup three times on the bounce, also played in the FA Cup, reaching the quarter finals in the 1882-83 season. Surprisingly, given the footballing pedigree of the principality, a national league was only organised as late as 1992 in Wales, with the top Welsh clubs remaining in the English league system.

Cameroon defeat holders Argentina in the 1990 World Cup opener.
Omam Biyik leaps like a salmon.

The "World Game"

Meanwhile, in the benighted lands beyond the shores of this septic isle, "Johnny Foreigner" was about his sinister work, altering the game, developing new ideas and introducing elements born from the foreigner's traditional dastardly cunning, such as flair, diving, creativity, brandishing imaginary cards and tactics: whilst teams in England commonly used the classic 2-3-5 or "pyramid" formation well into the 1980s, aliens were trying new things completely against the spirit of fairness which is the hallmark of the game in England, such as defending. The mighty River Danube wends its way through much of central and eastern Europe and it was from the great cities sprung up around its banks and those of its tributaries that some of football's visionaries would impose their, well, vision on the game. In Vienna in 1936, Austria would beat England 2-1 at a time when Austria were very probably the finest international outfit in world football. Seventeen years later, worse was to come for England in the form of a 6-3 home trouncing at the hands of the "Magnificent Magyars," led by the mighty Ferenc Puskás. Hungary were almost certainly the finest team of their generation and probably the best ever international team to have not won the World Cup: the 1954 final saw them beaten in the Wunder von Bern by West Germany. The Germans would emerge as one of English football's greatest tormentors in later years, usually via the medium of penalties (which, with their reliance on ruthless efficiency and possibly Vorsprung durch Technik, to the exclusion of the traditionally-fair and utterly English medium of throwing a coin up into the air and seeing which side it landed on to determine victory, could almost be an invention of the redoubtable Teuton).

A litany of heroic failure

Most embarrassing of all was the 1950 World Cup, which saw England infamously lose 1-0 to the USA. The match was only the second game England had ever played in the finals of a World Cup (before 1950, England had disdained the competition and refused to turn up). Thus began a series of doomed quests to overcome the wiles of the outlander and bring a major international trophy to the game's home.

Joe Gaetjens' goal for the USA against England in the 1950 World Cup.
USA 1, England 0.

The trend was bucked in 1966, with England claiming their first (and, to date, only) major international honour, thanks to forward-thinking management, Geoff Hurst et al, home advantage and the neutralisation of the Brazilian talisman Pelé by purveyors of hearty Eastern European defending. The third goal in the final was yards over the line and there was no pitch invasion going on when Hurst completed his hat-trick. Four years later, England were again surprisingly good but were ousted in the quarter finals (thus setting a trend) by West Germany, defeated finalists four years earlier. However, the '70s were no golden age. Dastardly foreigners put paid to England's hopes in 1973 by means of the unseemly antics of an example of that characteristically-foreign, the "maverick goalkeeper." Meanwhile, the first black players suffered horrific racial abuse at the hands of brainless fans during the '70s and '80s, while other "top characters" found that a football match provided a good excuse to meet similar-minded goons for a good old fashioned set-to, often with little concern for nor heed paid to the Marquess of Queensberry's rules. Fortunately, in Britain as a whole such scenes were well on their way out by the time the 1990s saw the advent of the Premier League era. The Premier League, a playground for idle billionaires and assorted crooks, saw football became The. Single. Most. Important. Thing. Ever. Elsewhere, however, racism still unfortunately adds to a heady mix of tribalism, testosterone and obnoxiousness to ensure that the "holistic experience" of the average football fan is very often tainted.

The English national team, however, remained reassuringly crap. 2003 saw them slump to a new low, plummeting to a soul-destroying 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Australia, proving that there is no sport at which Englishmen cannot lie down like meek little lambs to lose shambolically to the Aussies.

The purpose of this publication is to provide lists of winners, league tables and, where those are lacking, details of cups throughout the world. Domestic competitions are the primary focus.

On "the pyramid"

Whimsical musing on the English league system by our correspondent

In truth, the English football pyramid is more of a pyramid topped by an obelisk, a throbbing ithyphallus with the two National League regional divisions representing the hairy nutsack, the somewhat redundantly-named National League National as the base of the haft and the Premier League as the crimson tip, with the various clubs vying to become the first pearl-like globule of morning dew - or, given the increased prominence of pompous, self-important continental competitions (seriously? Anthems?), perhaps the upper echelons of the club game ought to be put thus: the first emission emerges into the used, sweaty sock of the Champions League; the second into the tissue paper that is the Europa League; with the third dribbling down to form the cheese-scented smegma of the Conference League.
- "Achilles"

Female pioneers

by "Admirer of women (non-pervy)"

Dick, Kerr's captain greets opponent.
Dick, Kerr's captain greets opponent.

Women's football has a history just as long as the men's game, but marked with dismissiveness and sexism at every turn. Early pioneers were the pseudonymous Nettie Honeyball, founder of the British Ladies' Football Club, and a certain Mrs. Graham (not, contrary to some suggestions, my wife). These ladies arranged matches which entertained many a curious crowd during the 1890s.

The women's continued in some corners of the country, and thrived during the period of World War I and its immediate aftermath, with the Muintionettes' Cup being contested in north-eastern England. By 1921, women's football was so popular that the FA felt they had no option but to ban it. This led to the foundation of the English Ladies' FA, which ran a cup competition that year, playing at rugby grounds. It was won by Stoke.

By the late 1960s, in defiance of the ban, women's leagues were organised in various parts of the country, and, the FA having rescinded their ban in 1971, what would become the FA Women's Cup was organised, open to teams across the UK and Ireland. The women's game has never looked back and draws a lot of attention today.

This girl most definitely can!

Completely free - because who on earth would pay for this?

Sir Graham