17th Century - Football History - 1608-1700

In the 17th Century, in 1608, in Manchester, the local authorities 'Lete Roll' had a 'resolution' - "With the ffotebale...[there] hath beene greate disorder in our towne of Manchester we are told, and glasse windowes broken yearlye and spoyled by a companie of lewd and disordered persons ..."  At the same time, William Shakespeare wrote in King Lear a line "Nor tripped neither, you base football player" - and, in A Comedy of Errors:

"Am I so round with you as you with me,
That like a football you do spurn me thus?
You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither:
If I last in this service, you must case me in leather."

The word 'spurn' means to 'kick away', implying the game involved kicking a ball. 

In 1618 the authorities of Manchester appointed special "football officers".  Contrarily, in the same year, James 1st 'Book of Sports', instructs Christians to play football after worshiping on Sundays.  He seems to have attempted to decry the Puritans 'keeping of the Sabbath'.

Edmund Waller, a poet of 1623, prior to going into politics, wrote in one of his poems about 'teamwork' and mentions 'football' and 'passing the ball'. "They ply their feet, and still the restless ball, Toss'd to and fro, is urged by them all"

Between 1649 and 1660, after the execution of Charles 1st, Oliver Cromwell put fear into the hearts of all young people and the Game of Football was stopped, along with cock-fighting, bear-baiting, horse-racing and wrestling.  What is strange, is that Oliver Cromwell, who left Cambridge University in 1617, had been described by a fellow student of the day, James Heath, as "one of the chief matchmakers and players of football".  However, after his death, the Game of Football once again re-emerged.

After Oliver Cromwell's death in 1660, Francis Willughby, a Church Minister, published his 'Book of Games', which describes the Game of Football as "a close that has a gate at either end. The gates are called Goals". His book includes a diagram illustrating a football field. He also mentions tactics "leaving some of their best players to guard the goal" and "they that can strike the ball through their opponents' goal first win" and the way teams were selected "the players being equally divided according to their strength and nimbleness". He was the first to mention a 'law of football' "they must not strike (an opponent's leg) higher than the ball".  And, notably, he named the game as it is known today, in English, as 'Football'.

 

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Trial of Charles 1 on 4 Jan 1649, he was executed for 'treason' on 30 Jan 1649

 

 

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