Monday, December 03, 2007

How Football Kicked Off

From "Answers To Correspondents" on page 63 of today's Daily Mail.

QUESTION : Sheffield United claim to be the oldest football team in the world. But it takes two teams to play a game, so who did they play?

The oldest football team in the world is Sheffield FC who currently play in the Unibond League Division One South, at Step 4 in the Non-League Pyramid.

Founded in 1857, they should not be confused with Sheffield United, founded 32 years later. There are, however, close links between the two clubs as Sheffield FC assisted in the formation of the Blades.

Sheffield FC was initially established to allow its members to play football against each other, much like joining a local golf club these days. Games originally took place under a variety of formats, such as married men against single men.

The second oldest football team in the world is also Sheffield based: Hallam FC, who play on their original ground, the oldest continually existing football ground in the world. Sheffield FC have operated from several venues over the years.

The first challenge match ever was between Hallam FC and Sheffield FC at the Hallam ground on Boxing Day 1860. Last Boxing Day the two teams met again at Hallam for the 146th anniversary of the oldest derby in the world.

Forms of football, involving contests between sides which kicked, punched, carried and otherwise attempted to force some form of ball into alternative goal areas took place for many centuries before Sheffield FC came along. But the Sheffield club pioneered the modern rules and practices of soccer.

These include corner kicks, free kicks for fouls, throw-ins, heading the ball, crossbars and even the use of floodlights.

Sheffield FC's position as the world's first football team is recognised by FIFA.

When professional football gained a foothold in the Sheffield area, it brought Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday into prominence. Sheffield FC missed out on this development because, at that time, they decided to maintain their amateur status and never made it to the Football League - not yet anyway.

Harry Barnes

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