Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Soccer in Adelaide in 1881?

Snippets in the old papers like the following extract do my head in.

In 1881 in Adelaide it was claimed by the South Australian Weekly Chronicle that:
It is gratifying to find that the rules practised in South Australia are daily becoming more popular in England. In the latest accounts gathered from the home papers we find that the association rules are fest supplanting the Rugby union in metropolitan football circles, while new and important clubs are in course of formation having their laws based on the rules practised in this colony.
While the author is correct about the rise of soccer in England, what are we to make of his claim that the game of football as played in Adelaide is the very same one as Association football as played in England?

He is either wrong or right.

If he's wrong there is nothing to see here and he is just making the commonplace error of assuming games in different countries with the same name are in fact the same game.

But what if he is right? He could be right in two ways:
  1. English association rules were actually played across Adelaide in 1881. I doubt this because there is little evidence that this is the case and we know that a game very much like Victorian rules has been established by the late 1870s.
  2. The author is acknowledging the fraternity of Victorian rules and English association rules. This is more plausible. There a number of instances in the 1860s and 70s around Australia where the similarity of the two games is emphasised by journalists and correspondents. Soccer and footy in this formulation are identical twins separated at birth who grew up in very different environments, carrying in their DNA their fundamental similarities as kicking, goal scoring games as opposed to the other branch of the football family tree that gave us the running and handling games like rugby and American football.
These are just a few thoughts that will bear some further development but it is a significant problem for football historians to get their heads around.

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