Friday, 22 June 2012

That round ball kicking game

As you may or may not know I am not a fan of our country's so-called "national sport" (yes, ladies, men with no interest in association football do exist!) so when every four years the "Euros" (or the World Cup) roll around I am left bemoaning the TV schedules and observing with bemusement the sudden proliferation of little Flags of St George attached to car windows and the shouts of joy/frustration from neighbouring homes/public houses every time one or more of 22 overpaid oafs in their P.E. kit kicks an inflated pig's bladder into a 8ft x 24ft net.

I could go on about my opinions of the game, its modern-day players and its influence on the nation's psyche but to save you all from the rant I shall instead focus on a few amusing footer-based diversions with a vintage twist.

For example I'm told that tonight Greece will be playing Germany.  Oh were it more like this:



At the turn of the last century and for some years afterwards football was an amateur game (that is, the players weren't paid - in fact professional footballers were banned in England and Wales until 1895) with the teams usually being made up of company workers who played in their spare time.  Even when professional footballers became accepted they were subject to a maximum wage(!), among other regulations, some still had other occupations.  Denis Compton, well-known for playing the proper gentleman's sport of cricket for twenty years between 1937 and 1957, also played football for Arsenal between 1936 and 1950.



Football today is not a patch on what it was then.  For example, I'm told that the classic hand rattles are banned from most grounds nowadays due to them making a handy weapon - compare that to stories (even from my own mother, who attended her fair share of matches growing up in the '60s) of opposing supporters standing, yes standing as there were in places no seats, shoulder to shoulder sometimes surrounded by their opposite numbers with absolutely no ill-will or violence forthcoming.  Don't even get me started on the "professionalism" of today's players.  Uh-oh, nearly started ranted again there!

Classic newsreels of 1930s/'40s football matches have been successfully lampooned, perhaps most notably by Harry Enfield's Mr Cholmondley-Warner character in the early '90s.  Most amusing!



Of course if you must insist upon partaking in a bit of football then what better way to do it but in the vintage style, when it truly was "a gentlemen's game".  Luckily there is an online emporium that specialises in vintage football ephemera, including repro kits for some clubs.  The Old-Fashioned Football Shirts Company, pleasingly shortened to TOFFS, has replica jerseys that in places date back to late-19th Century designs!

Newton Heath (later Manchester Utd.) 1892-3 season
From £39.99 @ TOFFS

Woolwich Arsenal 1930
From £39.99 @ TOFFS

Naturally it wouldn't be a proper football match without a traditional leather ball - just don't head it too much!

Retro Leather Football, £40 @ Something Sporting

Even after all this I still find it hard to derive any interest in or enjoyment from football.  The best I can say about it is - while England are playing at any rate - it does at least mean the roads/public transport are quieter (one England match during Euro 2004, I think, I managed to shave several minutes off my commute home from work!).  Mr B's little ditty (technically composed for the World Cup, but works for the Euros too) sums up my attitude completely!

3 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I love Mr. Cholmondley-Warner, so inappropriate, but somehow, I wish it were so!
    Di
    X

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  2. Mr Robot hates football but seems to watch rather a lot of it nonetheless. I prefer cricket, on the whole. I can forgive the footer a great many things this summer because at least Euro 2012 isn't the monstrous bullying marketingfest that is the O-games.

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    Replies
    1. Does Mr Robot work in an office, or otherwise with a lot of men? I sometimes found it expedient to at least read the match reports in the morning newspaper so I could follow and if necessary take part in conversations at work, which would inevitably turn to the football at some point. Perhaps Mr R is doing similar research? ;)

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