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Football Evolution – A Synopsis

September 6, 2010
Ever wondered how modern beautiful passing game of Arsenal and Barcelona was plaeyd in the nascent years of Football in the second half of the nineteenth century? If you have wondered and want to feel the same with your eyes, take a trip down the memory lane for your first game of football as a kid. If you did not play as a kid, do not worry walk to the nearest park and watch the kids hover over the football like a swarm of bees.

Positions like flying back and free come to my mind. It seemed like the ball had the magnetic attraction strong enough to attract the huge number of players on the ground in a circle of diameter equal to the sum total of their widths. Without the rule of off side, there was always a kid lingering at the attacking post to receive the ball and put it in.

This is also how football was born. It was born from a dispute between the Rugby playing schools in England which wanted to allow the forward pass and those that did not.

To the astonishment of many, the party asking for the prohibition of forward pass developed a new game called football introducing the most complicated rule in Football called the Off-side. Much like the modern day controversy of the rule, it had discrepancies even in it’s birth between Sheffield and Rugby school. The latter called the off-side Law 6 whereas Sheffield had a similar rule but no name for it.

It took 60 years for the proper christening of Law 6 into Off side in the year 1925. And even 85 years from it’s christening, it remains the most misunderstood child in the Football family of rules.

The formal inscription of Law 6 in FA led to a huge development in the game. Gradually the goalkeepers were only allowed to handle balls within 18 yards from their post – an ode to Sunderland keeper (or should I call Goal, as was the name then) Leigh Richmond’s Roose habit of carrying the ball till the half line.

The positions were invented in order to break the attraction of the football on the players. Still, there was too much emphasis on going forward and one of the first formations was 1-2-7 (the order is Def-Mid-For). Surprising to the modern spectator or fan of the game. What were they thinking? My first impression was of imagining them play like the Bavarian party players playing in the Pepsi Advertisement of World Cup 2006.

Gradually they introduced the centre-half in the game who was supposed to help his fly back when an opposition attack developed. It became the most important position in the game and has remained ever since with new and more responsibilities added to the position with every advent in the game.

The game remained more about the physical superiority till the introduction of a priest’s son Jimmy Hoogan to football in England. A perfectionist he was. So he tried to change the strategies and formations.

During his training, he kept his players ball hungry by giving the ball practice only once a week. Instead, he focussed on their alacrity, balance and movements in the field. Back in 1916, he started using drawing boards to explain the movements to his team. The few Austrians who want to but cannot understand the game of Cricket should blame him for their failure and not the complexities.

His introduction at Vienna Cricket Club introduced the Austrians to good football and gradually their loyalties changed to Football with a victory over England. Unlike a fairy story ending, the Austrians are good at neither Football nor Cricket now.

As he developed from a player to a coach, he stressed more and more on swift and daft passing amongst the players.

As Hogan in his angst against the british developed the game in Europe, his fellow countrymen developed the game to greater heights in South America.

In South America, Football developed into something to romanticize the fans and audiences. They did not adhere to the sole motivation of winning. It was more skillful passing and dribbling in front of the goal post. They danced with the ball individually to set up passes for the others

This has been the philosophy of Argentinian Football till now and the Brazilians after they won 2 world cups. To the shock of many, it was founded by a pack of meat-packers, a marble-cutter and grocer of the 1924 Uruguay team who toured Europe to etch their names in history with gold.

The Brazilians are credited with the Samba in Football but it originated from The Tango and Waltz of Argentina and Uruguay.


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