the study of all things kicker related

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kicking in the Dark

Kicking a ball of some sort has been a part of rituals and games in cultures around the world for thousands of years. The so-called Dark Ages of Western Europe were no exception, when a game befitting the times was played:

Between the 7th and 9th century in England (including the adjacent areas of Normandy, Brittany, Picardy, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland) various ball games emerged. The most popular of them was mob football. It was explicitly violent and played between villages, at the time of celebration and festivity. In fact, it was so violent that people living nearby would barricade their windows during matches. Both "teams" tried to force a ball into the center square of the enemy village or they might have played across different parts of town, again centered at a market place or a town square.

There are many theories as to how exactly mob football came about. Some of the earlier versions, like Shrovetide football, had vague rules restricting only murder or manslaughter. Legends (from Derby) preach that the game originated in Britain around 3rd century as a celebration over the defeated Romans. Others (Kingston-on-Thames and Chester) claim that the game was originally played with the severed head of a vanquished Danish prince. The game may also have been a pagan ritual in which the ball, representing the sun, had to be conquered and driven around the field, ensuring good harvest. There is also evidence (from Scotland) of this early rugby being played in teams between married men and bachelors, probably also as a heretic rite. It may be possible that mob football was introduced to England during the Norman invasion from France. A similar game is known to have existed in that region not long before mob football appeared in England.The exact origin cannot be pinpointed, but it is likely that the game was played with extreme enthusiasm, considering records of its prohibition.
While the term "pigskin" is still figuratively used today, it may have been used literally in mob football:
These archaic forms of football, typically classified as mob football, would be played between neighboring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag an inflated pig's bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. Sometimes instead of markers, the teams would attempt to kick the bladder into the balcony of the opponents' church.
Although other forms of football have since proliferated and spread around the globe, mob football can still occasionally be found:

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Haha, love this! Thanks!

Coach Charlie said...

Great piece on history of kicking.

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