The greatest game on Earth

Alex Trebek: Answer—The severed head of a Danish prince was used as a ball for this sport on a battlefield after the prince’s army had been defeated by a group from the east of England.
Contestant #1: What is soccer?
Trebek: Correct.
Contestant #1: I’ll take, ‘World’s greatest sport’ for $200, Alex.
Trebek: The answer—The Han Dynasty of the second century is believed to have been the first people to have had a version of this game, which was part of their military training.
Contest #2: What is soccer?
Trebek: Correct.
Contestant #2: All right, I’ll take, ‘World’s greatest sport’ for $600.
Trebek: It is the Daily Double (interrupted by mandatory applause). The answer—The Greeks and Romans played different versions of this game that eventually was modernized by England and Scotland.
Contestant #3: What is baseball?
Trebek: Incorrect, you buffoon. Obviously you haven’t been paying attention. Ladies and gentleman, please tell him what the correct answer is.
Audience: Soccer!
Ahh, soccer—the game that was played by people of royalty and a game that used royalty as equipment. To borrow the National Basketball Association’s motto, “I Love this Game!’
It’s been about 3,000 years since some version of soccer was played and records even show that Jesus Christ enjoyed playing the outside midfield position (just kidding, there aren’t any passages in the Bible that state Jesus ever played soccer).
But even if no verses of Him taking part exist, you can bet your rosary that the Big Guy’s son has been watching the game that is, without argument, the greatest the world can offer.
Did you know the reason why the game is called “football” outside of North America is because of some brainy students at Oxford University back in the 1880s.
Students there used slang that involved deliberately adding ‘er’ to words and the term “rugger” was slang for rugby football.
So when a student named Charles Wreford Brown was asked to play “rugger” and responded with, “No, it’s soccer”—he had shortened rugby asSOCiation and added ‘er’—the term was born (it wasn’t until 1863 when the rugby association and football association branched off).
But “football” wasn’t always the choice of the Lords of the Manor.
Back in 1314, when dames were in distress and Sir Lancelots were in short order, the Lord Mayor of London saw it fit to issue a proclamation forbidding football within the city due to the rumpus it usually caused (read broken windows).
King Edward III passed extremely harsh measures in 1331 to suppress the demonic game, and similar measures were introduced in France. And then there was James I, who stated in 1424: “That na man play at the Fute-Ball.”
Well put, King, and you wonder why they used the head of Danish prince as a ball?
But that was then and this is now, and thankfully those efforts to subdue the game didn’t have much effect.
The popularity of soccer amongst “the infidels” was far too deep to be uprooted, and when Britain starting invading, er discovering, other parts of the world, at least the Brits gave the natives of the land something other than war and the plague.
It even can be argued that Africa has thrown off colonialism as much through victories in soccer games as by any other achievement.
Heck, anyone who doubts the strength of the game need only to look at how quickly the old Soviet Union fielded national soccer teams even during its collapse, which showed the country’s participation in the World Cup was more important that membership in the United Nations.
But “Come on,” you say? This is soccer. What’s to get?
Most people think the game is about a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of playing against another bunch of guys you’ve never heard of, with the government of the losing side crumbling.
And somewhere along the lines a lot of English fans will be arrested.
Wrong (except for the part about English fans).
You can ask the 650 kids who registered for Fort Frances Youth Soccer this past spring what they think of the game (if you see Struchan Gilson or Jim Curr walking along the street, go up to them, shake their hand, and tell them, “Thank you for bringing soccer to Fort Frances.”)
But it’s tough to see Canada ever really falling in love with the sport.
Many think soccer is a game that serves no real purpose to the public and is a sport that has lost all sight of perspective, where politicians get involved and where the money has gotten absurd (but that’s not soccer, that’s hockey).
Admit it, though. If you really thought Canada could win the World Cup, you’d watch, wouldn’t you? If you thought we had the Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Bobby Orr of the soccer world, you’d rush out and watch.
Maybe that’s because soccer is not a “television sport.” Maybe it’s because we haven’t grown up in a country framed by four others that we really despise? Maybe it’s because we stink at it?
Or maybe it’s because our founding fathers had a bad instep?
emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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