By Patricia Shaw Fairman
Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense, Vol. 2 (1994)
Abstract: It is the object of this study to give some account of references and reactions to Europe’s oldest team game, football, to be found in English writings, 1175-1815, later references to this by then reformed and regulated game offering less interest.
A brief survey of observations concerning the oldest form of British football, campball, will be offered as also some early testimonies concerning the game from other European sources. The English sources will be examined, and in many cases quoted in order to emphasize those aspects of football which evidently aroused most interest, these being essentially: its popularity with the peasant and urban working class population, as opposed to the more distinguished pursuits of gentlemen, and the exaltation of prowess at this sport; the extreme violence of football as played in earlier centuries; and the possibilities it offered for figurative and metaphorical exploitation.
Introduction: Over the last decades, we have, unfortunately, become only too used to hearing, reading and seeing innumerable reports and debates in the media concerning the violence engendered by the playing and the watching of what is, as professor Emilio Lorenzo, to whom this study is respectfully and affectionately dedicated, observes, “nuestro primer deporte”, that is to say, football. As, however, we shall try te demonstrate in this brief survey, the association of football with violence in Great Britain is centuries old, being reflected in English texts dating from 1175 onwards, and forming, indeed, the principal, although net exclusive subject matter, of the majority of those accounts concerning this sport still extant.