Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Friday, 26 July 2013

'Soccer' in Adelaide in 1854

The Register in Adelaide published this piece in 1907

"One of the Old School" writes: - "As an intimate and almost lifelong acquaintance of the late Mr. John Acraman, I was pleased to peruse the interesting account of his career published in The Register last week.  
Among the various points which attracted my attention particularly was that in regard to Mr Acraman's association with athletics and sports, especially football. It is quite true that he was the first man to introduce football properly into South Australia, and that he had five round balls sent out from England. He also erected the first set of goalposts. That was over 50 years ago - to be exact, in 1854. As there were no rival clubs the pioneer 'hunters of the leather,' who included numerous St. Peter's College old boys, picked sides. The combats took place on the park lands between the Frome Road and City Bridges, under what were known as the Harrow rules. The goalposts were about 9 ft high with a bar across the top. The ball had to be kicked below this, and could not be handled except when being marked. Shouldering was permitted, but holding and hacking were strictly prohibited. The teams usually comprised 20 men each. . . .
Written as a recollection on the life of the recently departed Adelaide identity John Acraman, it details a very early football game in Adelaide. The game description seems very close (as far as we can ascertain) to the very first FA rules (of which the mark was a part). It seems to me that in 'genetic' terms this game is closer to soccer than any other code and that we are able to claim this as an early example of soccer in Australia.

An obvious exception could be taken insofar as Soccer does not technically exist until 1863. This is true but it would be based on the assumption that soccer magically appeared at that point without any developmental impulses. Soccer emerges from a number of strains of football: Eton, Harrow, Cambridge and Sheffield as well as local rule-bound small-sided games across Britain. This game in Adelaide is about as close to soccer that you can get in its pre-figurative forms.

It is worth noting that this date is 4 years before the first game under the 'Melbourne Rules' (a game which looks nothing like contemporary Australian rules) and 23 years before Victorian Rules is adopted as the major code of football in Adelaide.

Check out this example of Harrow football from 2011.  Given that the rules have altered very little over time, it's a kind of time capsule for how the game was played 150 years ago. Here's the Wikipedia link to Harrow football supplied by Albert Ross below.


  1. I'd have to say that the video does not help one understand what is supposed to be going on. Far better to read the Wikipedia article first

    I see that article says that the Harrow teams now play footer against some other schools including the oicks down the hill at John Lyon School (the day school set up when Harrow's trustees' discovered to their horror that the school was supposed to provide education to at least some local lads and not exclusively the scions of the aristocracy and plutocrats. I am an Old Lyonian and when I was there the only winter games were Association football and cross country running. Exotica such as rugby and footer were not for the likes of us sons of local tradespeople, teachers and what not, mostly there courtesy of some sort of scholarship.

    1. Thanks Albert. Hopefully your link helps those who can't follow what is going on.