GEN­TLE­MEN PIONEERS

FourFourTwo - - FOOTBALL TRIBES -

As­so­ci­a­tion foot­ball was in­vented in the back room of a Lon­don pub in 1863 by sev­eral well-to-do gen­tle­men sport­ing size­able mous­taches and mut­ton-chop side­burns, and the orig­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tion foot­ball fans were just as gen­tle­manly and hairy. Early club matches be­came so­cial events that al­lowed spec­ta­tors the op­por­tu­nity to show off their finest cloth­ing – frock jack­ets, waist­coats and colour­ful neck­er­chiefs, with shiny top hats or bil­ly­cock bowlers. News­pa­pers noted that the early matches were also at­tended by “many of the fair sex, who added to the at­trac­tions of the sport”.

Th­ese fledg­ling meet­ings be­tween the Lon­don-based Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion sides at­tracted only a few hun­dred sup­port­ers. Big­ger and live­lier crowds could be found else­where in emerg­ing foot­ball hot­beds such as Glas­gow and Sh­effield.

One news­pa­per ar­ti­cle de­scribed the gen­tle­men from Sh­effield as “ex­tremely lib­eral with their plau­dits... and equally un­spar­ing in their sar­casm and coun­try ‘chaff’”. Dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tions of ‘chaff’ in­clude ‘light-hearted jok­ing’ as well as the word ‘ban­ter’, which means ban­ter has been as­so­ci­ated with foot­ball fans for the best part of 150 years.

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