Soccer - "The Beautiful Game," as she has been called yet another marvellous gift bequeathed by Great Britain to the rest of the world. Yes, indeed, Noble Readers, we Brits are responsible for more aspects of the modern world than you could properly shake a stick at. (Regular visitors to this blog will know that aschool of my fond acquaintance, Rossall College, was the place that spawned lawn tennis.) Even Americans, who have manfully resisted soccer - mostly by treating it as a girl's game - enjoy grown up national pursuits of football and baseball which, in part, have their origins in the Englishman's love of sport.
Be that as it may, I thought I would mention three facts I recently learned about soccer that few die-hard fans will know. The first is that nowadays teams play left-to-right, so to speak, until half time, and then right to left in order to compensate for the wind. But in Victorian times footballers played one way only until a goal was scored, then started off again in the other direction, and so on. Isn't that interesting?
The second priceless nugget concerns the first ever international soccer match, which was between England and Scotland. It took place in 1872, was played on a cricket ground in Glasgow, Scotland, and the honours were shared evenly as the game finished in a rather uninspiring 0-0 draw. But well done the Scottish cricketers for their magnanimity in any case.
The third glittering bauble of soccer information I wish to make known is that the England captain on that not-so-famous day in 1872, was a man called C.J. Ottaway.
Ottaway was an Old Etonian and a prodigious sportsman. His excellence in a range of sports including cricket and various kinds of tennis and athletics was pretty well unparalleled. Sadly, after playing in three consecutive F.A. cups, he died aged only 27 after a night's dancing. This, methinks, should stand as a warning to the rest of us, and serve as a reminder of my own cherished dictum that sport should be generally avoided on the grounds that it wears out the kneecaps.