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football pitch corner mark

Fever Pitch

It’s the FA Cup final at Wembley this Saturday, with two of the biggest clubs competing to lift the Football Association Challenge Cup. First played for in the 1871-72 season, it is the oldest association football competition in the world.

wembley stadium

Wembley Stadium

It’s going to be a tough one. Chelsea in have won the FA Cup 7 times in the past and hold the record for the fewest goals conceded in a league season (15, 2005). They are facing Manchester United who have won the FA Cup 12 times.

Manchester football stadium statue

Alex Ferguson statue at Old Trafford

Whilst we prepare ourselves for the match who better to guide us than Blue Badge Tour Guide and member of the Football Writers Associate, Kevin Molloy, who gives us a brief history of this beautiful game.

It is humankind’s all-time most popular group participation activity – 270 million play it, and over a 1 billion watch it. Even in the USA, ‘soccer’ is the no.1 spectator sport.

  • BC: Evidence of it played in China and Ancient Greece.
  • Early Medieval: English towns and villages mark out Parish boundaries with game traditionally played at Easter, on Shrove Tuesday or Good Friday. Many still played today: Ashbourne, Derbys has the Up’Ards v Down’Ards; Workington, Cumbria has its Uppies v Doonies; while Atherstone in Warwickshire still has Warwickshire v Leicestershire.
  • 1170: First written evidence in England of football: William Fitzstephen wrote of his visit to London, ‘After dinner all the youths of the city goes out into the fields for the very popular game of ball.
  • 1314: King Edward II act bans football ‘from which many evils may arise.’
  • 1586, 1590, 1593: Successive acts in reign of Elizabeth I banning football. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors uses football as an analogy for a slave being kicked around. Also referenced in King Lear:Thou base football player’.
  • 1800s: Game taken up by public schools where varied codes devised: Charterhouse and Westminster favoured forward passing. Eton and Harrow favoured dribbling. Blackheath favoured hacking. Rugby School favoured handling and carrying and devised their own rules for a separate game in 1823.
  • 1848: The Cambridge University Rules established on Parker’s Piece forbid handling and ‘hacking’.
  • 1863: Football Association formed at The Freemasons’ Tavern, Covent Garden (Now Grand Connaught Rooms). 12 amateur clubs codify the laws of the game (of the original twelve, only the Civil Service FC survive). They adopt a mixture of the rules of Cambridge, Charterhouse, Westminster, Eton and Harrow. Handling (not carrying) wasn’t banned for another 4 years.
  • 1863: (Dec 19) First match under new laws: Barnes v Richmond. It finished 0-0.
  • 1888: Football League (professional association) founded at Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet St. Clubs swiftly form in English towns and cities. Club nicknames often reflected local trades of Industrial Revolution, eg, Blades (Sheffield United), Cobblers (Northampton Town), Hatters (Luton Town), Potters (Stoke City), Saddlers (Walsall).
  • 1966: England win the World Cup.