Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars A touch of class, 9 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth Of British Football (Hardcover)
Beastly Fury tells the story of how British football gradually emerged over the course of the 19th century, the result of the coming together (and subsequent separation) of working, middle and upper class forms of football. In telling this story, Sanders also gives an account of the changing class relations of the industrialising Britain of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and in particular of the strength of extreme snobbery and social prejudice which characterised these relations. A small but telling example of this was the fact that any professionals who were reluctantly selected for early England teams were obliged to wear different shirts from their amateur teammates.

So much football writing merely recycles the same old anecdotes and received wisdom about the roots of the game. By contrast, this book is based on original research, and it shows. Just one of many gems is the story of a game, organised at a time when different clubs still played by different rules and when the rugby-football split was still embryonic. Some footballers from Sheffield (who played a version close to the modern form of the game) were invited to join a Yorkshire team to play against Lancashire in 1870. Infuriated by their opponents' habit of tackling them, one of the Sheffield-based players "grabbed the ball by the lace and hammered his opponent about the head with it". As Sanders drily comments, "Sheffield footballers were not invited again." This anecdote neatly encapsulates the fact that the modern division between rugby and football was one which took a long time to emerge and was in no way inevitable or natural.

The book takes the story through to the emergence of professional football in the late 19th century, and also includes a fascinating chapter on women's football in late-Victorian Britain.
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