This is really a topic for my co-blogger, Mark, who actually follows football and knows something about its history. I’m sure he’ll speak up to correct me if I say anything too absurd.
Football has a long history in England, having been played in one form or another for at least a thousand years. The most famous medieval example is the Shrovetide match at Ashbourne (Derbys.) which continues to today. These were often very rough games with few rules: broken bones were common and the whole parish might join in.
In the early modern period there were increasingly regularised matches, but there was also plenty of sporadic opposition from the authorities. They were sometimes associated with social protest, particularly riots against the enclosure or ‘improvement’ of common lands.
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