Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Friday, 19 October 2012

"The Ball is Almost Round" The Re-introduction of Soccer into Mildura, 1911

Soccer was reintroduced in Mildura at the end of the 1911 football season after a 15 year absence. (Games against Renmark in South Australia were played in Mildura as early as 1895.) Competitive local games were organised in the 1912 season and so 2012 represents something of an anniversary for soccer in the town.

The following report from the local paper (the Cultivator) is enthusiastic and accidentally hilarious. It gets some things right but, typically, gets some things terribly wrong. It points out the curious use of straight boundary lines. And the reported spectator confusion over the offside law will not have been alleviated by this account. Moreover, the ball is "almost round"!

Interesting also are the comments in relation to the referee and the lessons that the Victorian game could learn from his role and performance. The footballers themselves show a level of mutual understanding that could also prove exemplary to players of Australian rules in the reporter's opinion.

There are a couple of places where the text in indecipherable. Asterisks have been used to indicate these points.

British Association Football. MILDURA (3 GOALS) BEATS MERBEIN (2 GOALS) 

The Mildura Cultivator 27 September 1911 p 8

"Soccer" is a very different game from Australian Football. In the first place, there are eleven players on each side instead of eighteen and the field of play is very much smaller and quite a different shape from the the familiar oval. The dimensions may be of a maximum length of 130 yards, with a maximum breadth of 100 yards; or they may be as small as 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. The field of play is marked by straight boundary lines, those at the ends being called "goal lines" and those at the sides "touch lines". The latter are drawn at right angles with the goal lines and a flag *********** feet high is placed at each corner. The goals are upright posts fixed in the goal lines equidistant from the corner flag-staffs, eight yards apart, with a bar across them eight feet from the ground. Only goals count in the score; these are obtained when the ball has passed between the posts under the bar not being thrown, knocked on nor carried by any player of the attacking side. The ball is almost round. Only two men on the field are allowed to take the ball in their hands, these being the respective goal keepers. No other player can mark a ball; when it is kicked into the air it is received either on the head, neck, knee or foot. It is then edged or dribbled along until a favorable opportunity offers to kick or to touch it to another player who is in a more favorable position for kicking a goal. 

In last Saturday's game - which did not draw nearly so large a crowd as the fixture deserved - the players were as follows :- Mildura - Ginn, Cohen, Meredith, Keil, Gordon, Mallock, Hart, M'Cowan (Capt.) Alcx. Lockhead, Dawes and Wiltshire. Merbein (inclusive of Old Mildura) - Hilton, Home, Bashecker (2), Black, Loram, Hardy, Stevens. Davenport (Capt.), Leach and Nutall. The game was commenced with a place-kick from the centre *** towards the goal defended by Home - who proved to be a capable custodian. Corner shots were ineffectively tried on more than one occasion by the Merbein players, but eventually a goal was obtained. This was followed promptly by a goal obtained by Mildura, so the terms were level after leaving the field after the half-time adjournment. Resuming - kicking to opposite ends - Mildura very promptly got a second goal. It was only a temporary advantage, however, for Merbein pressed home a concerted attack, and, though Wiltshire defended well, were at last able to get a "daisy cropper" through. There was, very little to choose between the two teams and all worked tremendously hard to get the conquering goal. As it happened, it came at almost the last moment and in a very exciting manner. All the spectators saw of it was a warm tussle forward, then the custodian and an opponent intermixed, rolling together on the ground, with the ball on the goal line. It was a debatable point whether the ball had really passed between the goal posts, but the decision of the referee, prompt and decisive, was that a fair goal had been scored. So Mildura came through winners by three goals to two. 

By the way, Referee Clark had very little to do in comparison with what a Victorian Umpire has. Fully dressed even to his glasses, he stood quietly in the centre of the playing ground with very little else to do but observe. On very few occasions was his whistle called into requisition, practically the only interference with the progress of the game being when the ball, through crossing the goal line or touch line, was temporarily out of play. In the one case the ball was kicked off ; in the other it was thrown in by a player. Linesmen (in this case Messers Keil and Urquhart) Signalled when the ball passed over the touch line and it was thrown in by a player from the opposite side to that which played it over. The player may throw the ball in any direction, but he must not himself touch it again until it is played by another man. Moreover, no player of his own side can handle the ball unless there are at the moment of throwing-in at least three of his opponents nearer their goal line. That was a point which puzzled spectators a good deal, but seemed to be thoroughly understood by the players, there being very few cases of "off side " play.

Though not understanding the details spectators readily admitted that "soccer" is a hard game and a fast game and a scientific game. If, as it is proposed, it is taken up seriously in the next football season, it should soon acquire a wide popularity. Of the respective merits of last Saturday's players our reporter is not competent to judge. All were triers, most were speedy and all seemed to know what they were about. Selfishness, if present, was not noticed, for all seemed to be heartily in accord. There appeared, indeed, to be a mutual understanding as close as if the players had been associated for the whole season, instead of being brought together just at the end. In these particulars at least the players of the Victorian game might well take a lesson from the exponents of "soccer". As already stated, the attendance was not large, so the hospital will not benefit to any appreciable extent.

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