England’s obsession with ‘the beautiful game’ of football dates back 145 years when association football and rugby football went their separate ways. But, although the English can lay claim to inventing the modern version of football, there is evidence that a similar game called Tsu Chu was played as early as three centuries B.C. during the Chinese dynasty of Han.
The Japanese also lay claim to being inventors of the sport, highlighting the game of Kemari, which dates from about AD600 and is still played today. However, although it involves use of the feet and a ball it is no more than a glorified game of ‘keepie-uppie’, unlike Tsu Chu where the object of the game was to kick a leather ball through a narrow opening; a definite forerunner of scoring goals.
As far as the modern game is concerned the Football Association was formed in 1863 and instantly became the governing body of the sport in England and Wales, a role that it still occupies today. Although the governance was in place it took another 25 years until a competitive, organised league was formed. The Football League, the oldest in the world, followed in 1888 consisting of only 12 teams drawn from the north and midlands. However, the sport soon captured the nation’s imagination and soon the league included southern teams and eventually grew to consist of 92 teams, before the formation of the Premier xem bong da truc tiep League in 1992 took the top 20 teams, reducing the Football League to 72 member clubs.
Over the years the sport has also been responsible for many traditions and innovations, most notably the Football Pools. Long before the National Lottery offered people the chance to become instant millionaires that role was filled by the pools. The introduction of the football pools in 1923 created a tradition where families crowded, first around the radio then later around the TV on Saturday afternoons as the football results were delivered and everyone checked their coupon to find out if they had hit the soccer jackpot.
But, not only did the football pools provide individuals with the remote chance of instant riches, but a proportion of the revenues raised were distributed back to the member clubs of the Football league for ground improvements, which also made them popular with the clubs.
The prominence given to the pools is reflected in the fact that there is an exhibit devoted to the subject at the National Football Museum in Preston. In amongst other items on display there is the original hand-written coupon of probably the most famous pools winners of them all, Viv Nicholson, who in 1961 won a handsome sum of £152,000, roughly equivalent to £3milllion at today’s values. The colourful Nicholson is famous for replying: ‘Spend. Spend. Spend!’ when asked what she intended to do with such a huge sum, and indeed within four years she had done just that!