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Fathers of Football By Keith Baker

Release date: 12th February, 2015
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £12.99
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Britons are renowned for being both notoriously reticent and for their inherent terror of appearing boastful. We’re the world’s greatest self-critics, always ready to consider other opinions, often to the detriment of our own.

Yet Britain has much of which to be proud - not a phrase you hear too often nowadays – particularly when we consider how pivotal Britons were in first codifying and then introducing organised sport to the rest of the world.

Fathers of Football concentrates upon a handful of Brits responsible for spreading the word regarding the beautiful game. It’s a relatively short book, but could have easily been twice as long, such is the fascinating nature of the subject matter.

Granted, Jimmy Hogan’s role in the development of Austrian and Hungarian football was hardly that of a nineteenth century missionary, but no less important because of the style of football he advocated, one which was to produce the ‘Magnificent Magyars’.

Seventy years earlier, the Hogg brothers introduced the game to Argentina, playing the first match at the Buenos Aires Cricket Club, but only after a discussion regarding the etiquette of wearing shorts in front of the ladies had been resolved.

Men such as Dr James Spensley, born in 1867 and credited with introducing the game to Genoans, is today remembered by parks and roads named after him; there’s even an annual football tournament for youngsters that bears his name. There’s a Charles Miller Plaza in front of Corinthians’ ground in Sao Paolo, named after the Englishman who arrived in Brazil in 1894 with two footballs and acknowledged as being the man who initiated the country’s deep love of the beautiful game.

Each of the characters featured are worthy of a book on their own (several already are), though Fathers of Football suffers from at least one glaring historical error which undermines the reader’s confidence in some of the book’s other dates. When describing the Witty brothers’ role in the development of FC Barcelona, reference is made to the school they attended (Merchant Taylors), “founded in 1651 during the reign of Elizabeth I.” Unfortunately, Good Queen Bess died in 1603. This error aside, Fathers of Football reminds us that Britain’s rich sporting legacy is something of which we should be proud, but never, ever, boastful.


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