The Bucket List, part one
1. Humble yet violent beginnings
This is the Headers & Volleys Bucket List.
World football is a big place and sometimes there seems almost too much to see. In this series we will be looking at the top things to see and do, before you pop your clogs.
Add your own lists in the comments section below, or contact us here and we will feature the best entries on the site.
Ryan Leverton of SportsLeviathan.com continues his Bucket List by looking at the origins of the game, with one of the oldest and most chaotic spectacles a football fan could hope to enjoy. You can also check out the last installment of Ryan’s list here.
The search for those ‘must do’ things doesn’t begin with the most obvious, but as a man of history, it begins with the first, chronologically. Mob Football was a popular recreation activity recognised by its violent, uncodified and rural exterior, a far cry from the Suarez swan dives of the 21st century.
The heartbeat of the game was born in these English Villages, where the locals celebrated their only days off work, known as ‘holy-days’, by taking part in ritual festivals of sport and alcohol. Though the game was different, the values and principles were the same; score more goals than the other team; blood, sweat and tears all in the name of pride and glory.
These episodes of mob football became few and far between once the public schools and Oxbridge universities codified the sport, churning out the forerunner for our currently beautiful game. The industrial revolution saw mass migration to towns and cities and Association Football began to feature goals, kits, rules and spectators, much like today… except in Ashbourne.
Royal Shrovetide Football has been played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday for over 800 years. The game is played between the Up’ards (north of the river) and the Down’ards (south of the river). The scenes are chaotic and the rivalry and intensity is fierce. The goals are 3 miles apart and games can last for hours and hours before a goal is scored, by hitting the ball 3 times against a Mill Stone.
This is a true spectacle, if a little slow, and represents the real roots of football and indeed Albion England. I dare say, if some of our teams on Saturdays showed a little bit of Down’ard spirit, they wouldn’t go far wrong.
Spectators are welcome to watch or even take part. I must admit, I was happy to take a back seat, particularly when the main rule is ‘Committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited’. You certainly wouldn’t see Drogba in the mix playing with his back to goal! Every year before the turner up begins play, an anthem is sung with the chorus ringing true some poignant words;
‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.
If you want a sense of the true beginnings of world sport and more specifically football, then look no further than Ashborne.
Coming up tomorrow: Ryan embraces real football debate; from arguments in London pubs key to the formation of the English game, to the coffee houses of Vienna, the home of modern day tactical analysis, we continue his definitive guide to the football Bucket List.