Sep 072016


On this date in 1893 several English ex-pats living in Italy founded the Genoa Cricket & Athletic Club. Cricket was their primary sport but “athletics” included football. By the turn of the century football had overtaken cricket as the predominant sport and by then the club had become the Genoa Cricket and Football Club, and still retains that name (and playing cricket), even though the club is almost exclusively known for football nowadays.


Since the club was set up to represent England abroad, the original shirts worn by the organization for football were white, the same color as the England national team shirt. At first Italians were not permitted to join the club. Genoa’s sporting events took place in the north-west of the city in the Campasso area, at the Piazza d’Armi.

The names of the founders are listed in their founding document.


These include Sir Charles Alfred Payton MVO (1843 – 1926) who was an English diplomat and writer. He had been appointed as British consul in Genoa in February of that year. It also included Daniel G. Fawcus (1858 – 1925) who had been a professional football player in England, and an administrator active throughout Europe. His presence accounts for the swift rise of football in the club. It should be remembered that football was an “athletic” sport in England at the time, designed primarily to keep cricketers fit in the off season.

Football in Italy stepped up a notch with the creation of the Italian Football Federation and the Italian Football Championship in 1898. Genoa competed in the first Italian Championship in 1898 at Velodromo Umberto I in Turin. They defeated Ginnastica Torino 2–1 in their first official game on 8 May, before winning the first championship later that day by beating Internazionale Torino 3–1 in extra time.


Genoa returned for the following season, this time with a few changes. The name of the club was altered to Genoa Cricket & Football Club, dropping the Athletic from its name. A change in shirt color was also in order to reflect the fact that they were starting to loosen ties with England, and began to admit Italians. They changed to white and blue vertical stripes; known in Italy as biancoblu. Genoa won their second title on 16 April 1899, by beating Internazionale Torino 3–1 for the second time. On their way to winning their third consecutive title in 1900 and proving their championship dominance, Genoa beat local rivals Sampierdarenese 7–0; a winning margin which would not be bettered by any team in the league until 1910. The final was secured with a 3–1 win over FBC Torinese.


The club strip changed again in 1901. Genoa adopted its famous red-navy halves and therefore became known as the rossoblu — these are the colors used to this day. After a season of finishing runners-up to Milan Cricket and Football Club, things were back on track in 1902 with their fourth title. Juventus emerged as serious contenders to Genoa’s throne from 1903 onwards, when for two seasons in a row Genoa beat the Old Lady in the national final.


Don’t think that cricket has been entirely forgotten, though. Whilst football reigns at the club, they still turn out a cricket side annually. They use the football pitch for the wicket and I wouldn’t say it is the world’s finest – nor the players. Looking at the stands you can also see that locals are not avid fans either. To be fair, I’ve attended cricket matches in England with about the same or fewer in attendance.


Genoa’s (and surrounding Liguria’s) most famous culinary specialties are its classic pesto and focaccia, both plain – flavored only with olive oil – or topped with onions, olives, sage, cheese, or whatever. Other specialties include filled pasta, such as traditional ravioli and the local pansotti (with a Swiss chard, egg and ricotta filling); corzetti from the Polcevera Valley, a fresh pasta made in the shape of small figure eights (unlike the corzetti of the Aveto and Vara Valleys, fresh pasta discs embossed with symbols and decorations); savory herb pies, such as torta Pasqualina (a puff pastry pie filled with cooked Swiss chard or artichokes, zucchini, spring herbs, eggs and cheese); stuffed (or fried) zucchini flowers, and cima, served in slices and made up of a slim pocket of veal stuffed with minced offal, bread crumbs soaked in broth, spring vegetables, grated cheese, diced mortadella and eggs.

Pesto, more fully, pesto alla genovese, is a sauce originating in Genoa, the capital of Liguria. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano  and pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk), all blended with olive oil.


The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese verb pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound or to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation: according to tradition, the ingredients are crushed or ground in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. This same Latin root, through Old French, also gave rise to the English noun pestle. Strictly speaking, “pesto” is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding and so the word is used for several pestos in Italy. Nonetheless, pesto alla genovese  remains the most popular pesto in Italy and the rest of the world.

Pesto is thought to have two predecessors in ancient times, going back as far as the Roman age. The ancient Romans used to eat a similar paste called moretum, which was made by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, olive oil and vinegar together. The use of this paste and how to make it is mentioned in the Appendix Vergiliana, an ancient collection of poems traditionally ascribed to Virgil.

Then singly each o’ th’ garlic heads be strips
From knotty body, and of outer coats
Deprives them, these rejected doth he throw
Away and strews at random on the ground.
The bulb preserved from th’ plant in water doth
He rinse, and throw it into th’ hollow stone.
On these he sprinkles grains of salt, and cheese
Is added, hard from taking up the salt.
Th’ aforesaid herbs he now doth introduce
And with his left hand ‘neath his hairy groin
Supports his garment;’ with his right he first
The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks,
Then everything he equally doth rub
I’ th’ mingled juice. His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single colour, not entirely green

In Virgil’s paste parsley gave it its light green color. The introduction of basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, occurred in more recent times and is first documented only in the mid-19th century, when gastronomist Giovanni Battista Ratto published his book La Cuciniera Genovese in 1863:

Take a clove of garlic, basil or, when that is lacking, marjoram and parsley, grated Dutch and Parmigiano cheese and mix them with pine nuts and crush it all together in a mortar with a little butter until reduced to a paste. Then dissolve it with good and abundant oil. Lasagne and troffie are dressed with this mash, made more liquid by adding a little hot water without salt.


Modern Italians buy pesto readymade for simplicity, or else use a blender or food processor at home. Proper cooks still use a mortar and pestle though, because no other method creates the right texture, consistency, and blend of flavors. Here’s the list of ingredients from the winner of the 2012 Genoa Pesto World Championship.

4 bunches of fresh D.O.P. basil from Genova
30 grams (about 2 tablespoons) pine nuts
445-60 grams (about a pound) of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
20-40 grams (about one ounce) of Pecorino cheese, grated
1-2 garlic cloves from Vassalico
10 grams (about 1.5 teaspoons) coarse salt
60-80 cc (1/4 to 1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, D.O.P., from the Italian Riviera

D.O.P. is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (“Protected Designation of Origin”) which means that if you want to try to replicate this recipe you’re going to need basil grown in Genoa. Well, you’re going to need a host of ingredients from northern Italy. The main thing is to work quickly because you don’t want the ingredients to oxidize excessively whilst you work.

Rinse the freshly cut basil leaves in cold water and leave them to dry, without rubbing them. Crush the garlic clove and pine nuts in the mortar until smooth; add some of the salt and basil, and pound it some more. (According to the recipe, you should use “a light circular movement of the pestle against the sides). Keep going until the basil drips with a bright-green liquid. Then add the cheese and the oil to blend. Done !! Serve over pasta.

May 172016


On this date in 1859 players in Melbourne codified the rules for Australian rules football (Aussie rules) for the first time. When I was researching the topic I was surprised to discover that the original rules for Australian football are older than those for any other type of football.  Who knew? When I played in the 1950s and 60s it seemed like a kind of rugby with quirks.  I was wrong.

There is documented evidence of “foot-ball” being played sporadically in the Australian colonies in the first half of the 19th century. There is no telling what type of football this was. In the early 19th century European football varied a great deal, and presumably Australian players followed suit. In 1858, public schools in Melbourne are first recorded organizing football games modeled on precedents at English schools. The earliest recorded match, held on 15 June, was between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School on the St Kilda foreshore.


On 10 July 1858, the Melbourne-based Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle published a letter by Tom Wills, captain of the Victoria cricket team, calling for the formation of a “foot-ball club” with a “code of laws” to keep cricketers fit during winter. Wills was born in Australia and had learnt an early form of rugby football whilst a pupil at Rugby School in England, and had returned to Australia a star athlete and cricketer. His letter is regarded by many historians as giving impetus for the development of a new code of football:

Sir, – Now that cricket has been put aside for some few months to come, and cricketers have assumed somewhat of the chrysalis nature (for a time only ’tis true), but at length again will burst forth in all their varied hues, rather than allow this state of torpor to creep over them, and stifle their new supple limbs, why can they not, I say, form a foot-ball club, and form a committee of three or more to draw up a code of laws? If a club of this sort were got up, it would be of vast benefit to any cricket-ground to be trampled upon, and would make the turf quite firm and durable; besides which it would keep those who are inclined to become stout from having their joints encased in useless superabundant flesh.


Two weeks after Wills’s letter, his friend, cricketer Jerry Bryant, posted an advertisement for a scratch match at the Richmond Paddock adjoining the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was the first of several “kickabouts” held that year involving members of the Melbourne Cricket Club, including Wills, Bryant, W. J. Hammersley and J. B. Thompson. Trees were used as goalposts and play typically lasted an entire afternoon. Without an agreed upon code of laws, some players were guided by rules they had learned in the British Isles, and others just made them up as they played.

Another significant milestone in the sport’s development was the match played under experimental rules between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, held at the Richmond Paddock. This 40-a-side contest, umpired by Wills and Scotch College teacher John Macadam, began on 7 August and continued over two subsequent Saturdays, ending in a draw with each side kicking one goal. It is commemorated with a statue outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the two schools have competed annually ever since in the Cordner-Eggleston Cup, the world’s oldest continuous football competition.


A loosely organized Melbourne side, captained by Wills, played against other football enthusiasts in the winter and spring of 1858. The following year, on 14 May, the Melbourne Football Club officially came into being, making it one of the world’s oldest football clubs. Three days after its formation, Wills, Hammersley, Thompson and teacher Thomas H. Smith met at the Parade Hotel in East Melbourne and drafted ten simple rules: “The Rules of the Melbourne Football Club”. These are the laws from which Australian rules football evolved. The document was signed by the rule-framers and three other club office bearers: Alex Bruce, T. Butterworth and J. Sewell. The rules were distributed throughout the colony; Thompson in particular did much to promote the new code in his capacity as a journalist. Australian football’s date of codification predates that of any other major football code, including association football (codified in 1863) and rugby union (codified in 1871).

Wills’s role in founding Aussie rules is something of a controversy nowadays because he wound up as an alcoholic who committed suicide. Contemporary Australians tend to downplay the image of the hard-drinking, potentially suicidal bushwhacker as stereotypical of Australian character, so, in consequence, modern journalists and historians have undercut his importance in the history of the game. Whatever your views of the beer-swilling digger, Wills’s role was pivotal.

There have also been claims recently that Wills was influenced by indigenous games in his development of Aussie rules. At best, the speculations are sketchy. Wills was the son of a squatter and, although he was educated at Rugby School in the 1850s, it is possible that the football game he helped invent could have been inspired in part by indigenous Australian pastimes involving possum skin “ball” games (sometimes collectively labeled “Marn Grook”), and this speculation has gained ground in recent years as efforts to promote the indigenous contributions to Australian culture have gained steam. I certainly applaud the impulse to accord greater recognition to aboriginal cultural influence in Australian culture, but here, I feel, the effort is misguided. At the very least, the historical evidence is virtually non-existent.

Anecdotal evidence of aboriginal football appears in the 1878 book, The Aborigines of Victoria, in which Robert Brough Smyth relates that William Thomas, a Protector of Aborigines in Victoria, had witnessed Wurundjeri east of Melbourne playing a “foot ball” game in 1841. The account appears to fit the general description of the traditional game of Marn Grook. This appears to be the earliest record of Europeans observing such pastimes. William Blandowski’s 1857 sketch of indigenous Australians in Merbein clearly depicts children playing a form of “foot ball”. Further research has established that this may have been a separate game (possibly Woggabaliri). Written record of such traditional pastimes is otherwise scant and because there is no known record of these pastimes in traditional indigenous Australian art it is not possible to trace its history further.

Some historians make the following argument. Wills arrived in Victoria’s western district in 1842. As the only European child in the district, and being fluent in the local dialect, he frequently played with local Aboriginal children on his father’s property, Lexington, outside of the town of Moyston. This story has been passed down through the generations of his family. Jim Poulter has argued that there was a direct link between the oldest versions of Australian rules football and sports played by some members of the indigenous Australian population. Poulter argues that Tom Wills had knowledge of Aboriginal oral traditions and language, but, when the rules of Australian rules football were codified, the status of Aboriginal culture in Australia was such that Wills may have been disadvantaged had he mentioned any connection, and as such “had no reason to mention this in discussions”. I am going to call this a dubious claim at best. Lack of firm evidence does not give you the right to make up history as you see fit.



Aussie rules became popular cable fodder in Britain and the U.S. on sports-only channels for a time because they could feature live action in the middle of the night in those countries, when it was day time in Australia, and when nothing else was available in the local area. I’m not sure what foreigners made of the game other than that it looks like a lot of tough guys leaping high to catch the ball, running fast, and stomping on each other a lot. That pretty much sums up the game. I played in school from age 6 to 15. We had pickup games at lunchtime in the winter and formal games once a week in high school. No one was exempt. I was forced to play every week for 3 years. I know the game intimately even though I was useless.  I played left forward flank which sounds important, but was really given to me by my captain to keep me out of the way.

My team was the weakest in the school, so the best players were assigned as rucks or rovers who were the mainstays, or were on the defense where they were needed most. I spent most of my time standing around near our goal posts chatting to my “mark” (defender on the opposite team) who would occasionally catch a long ball that came our way and kick it back. My team kept the ball away from me when play came in my direction. Just as well, I had the bad habit of throwing it if I caught it, or holding on to it too long. The great bulk of play swirled on in the far distance and I rarely paid attention. I got more action in primary school in lunch games because I was decent at drop kicks from hours of practice.


I can’t think of a better recipe to celebrate Aussie rules than Vegemite on toast. Vegemite is a dark brown, almost black, Australian food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives developed by Cyril P. Callister in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1922. Like Aussie rules, it’s distinctively Australian but with English roots. Vegemite is similar to British Marmite, but the taste is rather different. Vegemite is very salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in umami.

In 1919, following the disruption of British Marmite imports after World War I, Callister’s employer, the Australian company Fred Walker & Co., gave him the task of developing a spread from the used yeast being dumped by breweries. Callister used autolysis to break down the yeast cells from waste obtained from the Carlton & United brewery. He concentrated the clear liquid extract and blended it with salt, celery, and onion extracts plus flavorings to form a sticky dark paste.

The thing about Vegemite (and Marmite) is that it has a very strong taste, so you need to be ultra-sparing with it. Thickly butter your toast and then spread a SMALL amount of Vegemite evenly over all the toast. If you are daring, you can omit the butter, but the Vegemite must be spread in a thin layer.  It’s a popular breakfast food accompanied by milky tea. It’s a common item on the breakfast table along with marmalade where guests help themselves.

If you are adventurous you can try this recipe for Vegemite and cheese rolls.  Looks good. The link has good instructions and helpful stepwise photos.



Mar 232016


The first meeting of the Football League, a league competition featuring professional association football clubs from England and Wales, was held at Anderton’s Hotel in London on this date in 1888. As far as milestones in the history of football in general are concerned, this one is not awfully important – meetings to codify rules and create clubs are probably more significant. However, the date gives me an excuse to celebrate the development of football in all of its manifestations worldwide. It also allows me to dribble on for a bit about how so much of what we take for granted as timeless in the modern world grew out of the ideals of the 19th century.

Let me start with the word “football.” Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word “football” is understood to refer to whichever form of football is the most popular in the regional context in which the word appears. Sports commonly called “football” in certain places include: association football (known as “soccer” in some countries); gridiron football (specifically American football or Canadian football); Australian rules football; rugby football (either rugby league or rugby union); and Gaelic football. These different variations of football are known as football codes.


Various forms of football can be identified throughout history, often as popular peasant games. Contemporary codes of football, with the exception of Gaelic football, can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools during the 19th century. The expansion of the British Empire allowed these rules of football to spread to areas of British influence outside of the directly controlled Empire, though by the end of the 19th century, distinct regional codes were already developing. During the 20th century, several of the various kinds of football grew to become some of the most popular team sports in the world.

Medieval football is a modern term sometimes used for a wide variety of localized football games which were invented and played in Europe during the Middle Ages. Alternative names include folk football, mob football and Shrovetide football. These games may be regarded as the ancestors of modern codes of football, and by comparison with later forms of football, the medieval matches were chaotic and had few rules.


The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of games played annually at Shrovetide throughout Europe, particularly in England. The games played in England at this time may have arrived with the Roman occupation but there is little evidence to indicate this. Certainly the Romans played ball games, in particular Harpastum. There is also one reference to ball games being played in southern Britain prior to the Norman Conquest. In the 9th century Nennius’s Historia Britonum speaks of a group of boys playing at ball (pilae ludus). This could have been in either Southern England or Wales. References to a ball game played in northern France known as La Soule or Choule, in which the ball was propelled by hands, feet, and sticks, date from the 12th century.


These archaic forms of football, typically classified as mob football, would be played between neighboring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag an inflated pig’s bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. By some accounts, in some such events any means could be used to move the ball towards the goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder. Sometimes instead of markers, the teams would attempt to kick the bladder into the balcony of the opponents’ church. These antiquated games went into sharp decline in the 19th century when the Highway Act 1835 was passed banning the playing of football on public highways. This kind of football continues to be played in some parts of the United Kingdom, for example, the Ba game played at Christmas and New Year at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, Uppies and Downies over Easter at Workington in Cumbria and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday at Ashbourne in Derbyshire.


Few images of medieval football survive. One engraving from the early 14th century at Gloucester Cathedral, England, clearly shows two young men running vigorously towards each other with a ball in mid-air between them. There is a hint that the players may be using their hands to strike the ball. A second medieval image in the British Museum, London clearly shows a group of men with a large ball on the ground. The ball clearly has a seam where leather has been sewn together. It is unclear exactly what is happening in this set of three images, although the last image appears to show a man with a broken arm. It is likely that this image highlights the dangers of some medieval football games.


While football continued to be played in various forms throughout Britain, its public schools (known as private schools in other countries) are widely credited with four key achievements in the creation of modern football codes. First of all, the evidence suggests that they were important in taking football away from its “mob” form and turning it into an organized team sport. Second, many early descriptions of football and references to it were recorded by people who had studied at these schools. Third, it was teachers, students and former students from these schools who first codified football games, to enable matches to be played between schools. Finally, it was at English public schools that the division between “kicking” and “running” (or “carrying”) games first became clear.

The earliest evidence that games resembling football were being played at English public schools – mainly attended by boys from the upper, upper-middle and professional classes – comes from the Vulgaria by William Herman in 1519. Herman had been headmaster at Eton and Winchester colleges and his Latin textbook includes a translation exercise with the phrase “We wyll playe with a ball full of wynde”.

Richard Mulcaster, a student at Eton College in the early 16th century and later headmaster at other English schools, has been described as “the greatest sixteenth Century advocate of football”. Among his contributions are the earliest evidence of organized team football. Mulcaster’s writings refer to teams (“sides” and “parties”), positions (“standings”), a referee (“judge over the parties”) and a coach “(trayning maister)”. Mulcaster’s “footeball” had evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football:

some smaller number with such overlooking, sorted into sides and standings, not meeting with their bodies so boisterously to trie their strength: nor shouldring or shuffing one an other so barbarously … may use footeball for as much good to the body, by the chiefe use of the legges.

A more detailed description of football is given in Francis Willughby’s Book of Games, written in about 1660. Willughby, who had studied at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, is the first to describe goals and a distinct playing field: “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”); scoring (“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 is the first to describe a “law” of football: “they must not strike [an opponent’s leg] higher than the ball”.

English public schools were the first to codify football games. In particular, they devised the first offside rules, during the late 18th century. In the earliest manifestations of these rules, players were “off their side” if they simply stood between the ball and the goal which was their objective. Players were not allowed to pass the ball forward, either by foot or by hand. They could only dribble with their feet, or advance the ball in a scrum or similar formation. However, offside laws began to diverge and develop differently at each school, as is shown by the rules of football from Winchester, Rugby, Harrow and Cheltenham, during between 1810 and 1850. The first known codes – in the sense of a set of rules – were those of Eton in 1815 and Aldenham in 1825.


During the early 19th century, most working class people in Britain had to work six days a week, often for over twelve hours a day. They had neither the time nor the inclination to engage in sport for recreation and, at the time, many children were part of the labor force. Feast day football played on the streets was in decline. Public school boys, who enjoyed some freedom from work, became the inventors of organized football games with formal codes of rules.

Each school drafted its own rules, which varied widely between different schools and were changed over time with each new intake of pupils. Two schools of thought developed regarding rules. Some schools favored a game in which the ball could be carried (as at Rugby, Marlborough and Cheltenham), while others preferred a game where kicking and dribbling the ball was promoted (as at Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Charterhouse). The division into these two camps was partly the result of circumstances in which the games were played. For example, Charterhouse and Westminster at the time had restricted playing areas; the boys were confined to playing their ball game within the school cloisters, making it difficult for them to adopt rough and tumble running games.

The boom in rail transport in Britain during the 1840s meant that people were able to travel further and with less inconvenience than they ever had before. Inter-school sporting competitions became possible. However, it was difficult for schools to play each other at football, as each school played by its own rules. The solution to this problem was usually that the match be divided into two halves, one half played by the rules of the host “home” school, and the other half by the visiting “away” school.

The modern rules of many football codes were formulated during the mid- or late- 19th century. This also applies to other sports such as lawn bowls, lawn tennis, etc. The major impetus for this was the patenting of the world’s first lawnmower in 1830. This allowed for the preparation of modern ovals, playing fields, pitches, grass courts, etc.

Apart from Rugby football, the public school codes have barely been played beyond the confines of each school’s playing fields. However, many of them are still played at the schools which created them. Public schools’ dominance of sports in the UK began to wane after the Factory Act of 1850, which significantly increased the recreation time available to working class children. Before 1850, many British children had to work six days a week, for more than twelve hours a day. From 1850, they could not work before 6 a.m. (7 a.m. in winter) or after 6 p.m. on weekdays (7 p.m. in winter); on Saturdays they had to cease work at 2 p.m. These changes mean that working class children had more time for games, including various forms of football.

Sports clubs dedicated to playing football began in the 18th century, for example London’s Gymnastic Society which was founded in the mid-18th century and ceased playing matches in 1796.The first documented club to bear in the title a reference to being a ‘football club’ were called “The Foot-Ball Club” who were located in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the period 1824–41. The club forbade tripping but allowed pushing and holding and the picking up of the ball. In 1845, three boys at Rugby school were set the task of codifying the rules then being used at the school. These were the first set of written rules (or code) for any form of football. This further assisted the spread of the Rugby game.


In Europe, early footballs were made out of animal bladders, more specifically pig’s bladders, which were inflated. Later leather coverings were introduced to allow the balls to keep their shape. However, in 1851, Richard Lindon and William Gilbert, both shoemakers from the town of Rugby (near the school), exhibited both round and oval-shaped balls at the Great Exhibition in London. Richard Lindon’s wife is said to have died of lung disease caused by blowing up pig’s bladders. Lindon also won medals for the invention of the “Rubber inflatable Bladder” and the “Brass Hand Pump”. In 1855, the U.S. inventor Charles Goodyear – who had patented vulcanized rubber – exhibited a spherical football, with an exterior of vulcanized rubber panels, at the Paris Exhibition Universelle. The ball was to prove popular in early forms of football in the U.S.A.

In 1848, at Cambridge University, Mr. H. de Winton and Mr. J.C. Thring, who were both formerly at Shrewsbury School, called a meeting at Trinity College, Cambridge with 12 other representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury. An eight-hour meeting produced what amounted to the first set of modern rules, known as the Cambridge rules. No copy of these rules now exists, but a revised version from circa 1856 is held in the library of Shrewsbury School. The rules clearly favor the kicking game. Handling was only allowed when a player catches the ball directly from the foot entitling him to a free kick and there was a primitive offside rule, disallowing players from “loitering” around the opponents’ goal. The Cambridge rules were not widely adopted outside English public schools and universities (but it was arguably the most significant influence on the Football Association committee members responsible for formulating the rules of Association football).


By the late 1850s, many football clubs had been formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various codes of football. Sheffield Football Club, founded in 1857 in the English city of Sheffield by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, has been recognized as the world’s oldest club playing association football. However, the club initially played its own code of football: the Sheffield rules. The code was largely independent of the public school rules, the most significant difference being the lack of an offside rule.

The code was responsible for many innovations that later spread to association football. These included free kicks, corner kicks, handball, throw-ins and the crossbar. By the 1870s they became the dominant code in the north and midlands of England. At this time a series of rule changes by both the London and Sheffield FAs gradually eroded the differences between the two games until the adoption of a common code in 1877.

During the early 1860s, there were increasing attempts in England to unify and reconcile the various public school games. In 1862, J. C. Thring, who had been one of the driving forces behind the original Cambridge Rules, was a master at Uppingham School and he issued his own rules of what he called “The Simplest Game” (these are also known as the Uppingham Rules). In early October 1863 another new revised version of the Cambridge Rules was drawn up by a seven member committee representing former pupils from Harrow, Shrewsbury, Eton, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster.


At the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, London on the evening of October 26, 1863, representatives of several football clubs in the London Metropolitan area met for the inaugural meeting of The Football Association (FA). The aim of the Association was to establish a single unifying code and regulate the playing of the game among its members. Following the first meeting, the public schools were invited to join the association. All of them declined, except Charterhouse and Uppingham. In total, six meetings of the FA were held between October and December 1863. After the third meeting, a draft set of rules were published. However, at the beginning of the fourth meeting, attention was drawn to the recently published Cambridge Rules of 1863. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas; namely running with (carrying) the ball and hacking (kicking opposing players in the shins). The two contentious FA rules were as follows:

9. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries’ goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run.

10. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries’ goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.

At the fifth meeting it was proposed that these two rules be removed. Most of the delegates supported this, but F. M. Campbell, the representative from Blackheath and the first FA treasurer, objected. He said: “hacking is the true football”. However, the motion to ban running with the ball in hand and hacking was carried and Blackheath withdrew from the FA. After the final meeting on 8 December, the FA published the “Laws of Football”, the first comprehensive set of rules for the game later known as Association Football. The term “soccer”, in use since the late 19th century, derives from an Oxford University abbreviation of “Association.” It was still common in Oxford in my time to create slang terms by abbreviating a word and adding /-er/ as in champers (champagne), brekker (breakfast), and rugger (rugby). So “soccer” comes from asSOCiation.


The first FA rules still contained elements that are no longer part of association football, but which are still recognizable in other games (such as Australian football and rugby football): for instance, a player could make a fair catch and claim a mark, which entitled him to a free kick; and if a player touched the ball behind the opponents’ goal line, his side was entitled to a free kick at goal, from 15 yards (13.5 meters) in front of the goal line.

Need I go on? The point I am trying to make is that the 19th century was a watershed period in so many ways. It was an industrial era in which Britain was transformed in myriad ways – among them, the development of amateur and professional games, such as various codes of football, with formal rules and matches.

I’ve already given some thought for cooking and rugby here Association football is more of a challenge. You can’t really pinpoint a single place of origin. Nor can you associate food with it in the same way that you can in the U.S. with its tradition of tailgate parties, Super Bowl events, and the like. When I played football in England or went to matches, food was not an issue (nor was there a tradition of televised matches beyond Saturday evening Match of the Day which my mates and I watched in the college television room drinking beer).


So let’s focus on the oldest surviving independent club (as recognized by the FA and FIFA), that is, the first club that was organized solely for football playing and not associated with an institution such as a school, university, or hospital – Sheffield Football Club. This brings me to South Yorkshire cooking. I’ve covered the mainstays already in previous posts, so let’s cut straight to Yorkshire Curd Pie. This is a 2-day process. You have to make the curds on one day, then the pie on the second.


Yorkshire Curd Pie

Heat 2 pints (5 cups) of full cream milk in a large pan over medium-low heat. As it comes to a gentle simmer, add the juice of a lemon. Turn the heat to low and gently stir while the curds form. Stir carefully so as not to break the curds. When the mixture is watery with creamy lumps in it, turn off the heat and let the mix cool. Drain the curds overnight in a cool place by placing a double thickness of cheesecloth in a fine sieve and pouring the curd mix into it over a bowl to collect the whey (which can be used for other baking).

Cream 50g of unsalted butter with 50g of caster sugar in a mixer, then add a beaten egg. When fully incorporated, gently stir in the prepared curds and 25g of currants.

Line a 20 cm pie dish with pastry and pour in the filling mix.

Bake in a 180°C/350°F oven for about 40 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is golden. Cool and serve in slices with whipped cream or golden syrup (or both).

Oct 232015


Today is the birthday (1940) of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, universally known as Pelé,  a retired Brazilian professional footballer who is often regarded as the greatest player of all time. As I have said many times before here, I dislike the term “greatest” or “best” in these contexts. What’s the yardstick? Was he better than Maradona or Messi are now? Maybe. How do you judge? I have loved to watch them all. They all do brilliant things with the ball. When I used to watch Pelé play it was as if the ball were glued to his foot. He would find openings where none existed, and strike at the goal with pinpoint accuracy, beating the keeper by inches. Amazing. In 1999, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). The same year, France Football asked their former Ballon d’Or winners to choose the Football Player of the Century; they selected Pelé. In 1999, Pelé was elected Athlete of the Century by the IOC, and Time named him in their list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In 2013 he received the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in recognition of his career and achievements as a global icon of football.


According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful league goal scorer in the world, with 541 league goals. In total Pelé scored 1281 goals in 1363 games, including unofficial friendlies and tour games, for which he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for most career goals scored in football. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world. In his native Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments in football and for his vocal support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor. In 1961, Brazilian President Jânio Quadros had Pelé declared a national treasure (although this was primarily to stop him being traded overseas). During his career, he became known as “The Black Pearl” (A Pérola Negra), “The King of Football” (O Rei do Futebol), “The King Pelé” (O Rei Pelé) or simply “The King” (O Rei).

Pelé began playing for Santos at 15 and the Brazil national football team at 16. He played on three winning Brazilian FIFA World Cup teams: 1958, 1962 and 1970, the only player ever to do so; and is the all-time leading goal scorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 91 games. At club level he is also the record goal scorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores. Pelé’s electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals made him a star around the world, and his club team Santos toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity. Here’s a typical compilation:

Pelé was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho (born João Ramos do Nascimento) and Celeste Arantes. He was the elder of two siblings. He was named after the inventor Thomas Edison. His parents decided to remove the “i” and call him “Edson”, but there was a mistake on the birth certificate, leading many documents to show his name as “Edison”, not “Edson”, as he is called. He was originally nicknamed Dico by his family. He received the nickname “Pelé” during his school days, when it is claimed he was given it because of his pronunciation of the name of his favorite player, local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé, which he misspoke but the more he complained the more it stuck. In his autobiography, Pelé stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends. Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bilé, and that it is Hebrew for “miracle”, the word has no known meaning in Portuguese.

Pelé grew up in poverty in Bauru in the state of São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper football and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a grapefruit. He played for several amateur teams in his youth, including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, and Amériquinha. Pelé led Bauru Athletic Club juniors (coached by Waldemar de Brito) to three consecutive São Paulo state youth championships between 1954 and 1956. He also dominated Futebol de Salão (indoor football) competitions in the region and won several championships with local team Radium.


In 1956, de Brito took Pelé to Santos, an industrial and port city located near São Paulo, to try out for professional club Santos FC, telling the directors at Santos that the 15-year-old would be “the greatest football player in the world.” Pelé impressed Santos coach Lula during his trial at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, and he signed a professional contract with the club in June 1956. Pelé was highly promoted in the local media as a future superstar. He made his senior team debut on 7 September 1956 at the age of 15 against Corinthians Santo Andre and had an impressive performance in a 7–1 victory. Pelé scored the first of his record 1281 goals in football during the match.

When the 1957 season started, Pelé was given a starting place in the first team and, at the age of 16, became the top scorer in the league. Ten months after signing professionally, he was called up to the Brazil national team. After the 1962 World Cup, wealthy European clubs such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United tried to sign him, but the government of Brazil declared Pelé an “official national treasure” to prevent him from being transferred out of the country.


Pelé won his first major title with Santos in 1958 when the team won the Campeonato Paulista; Pelé finished the tournament as top scorer with 58 goals, a record that stands today. A year later, he helped the team earn their first victory in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo with a 3–0 over Vasco da Gama. However, Santos was unable to retain the Paulista title. In 1960, Pelé scored 33 goals to help his team regain the Campeonato Paulista trophy but lost out on the Rio-São Paulo tournament after finishing in 8th place. Another 47 goals from Pelé saw Santos retain the Campeonato Paulista. The club went on to win the Taça Brasil that same year, beating Bahia in the finals; Pelé finished as top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals. The victory allowed Santos to participate in the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club tournament in the Western hemisphere.

“I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us,” said Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira following the loss to Santos in 1962.

Santos’s most successful club season started in 1962; the team was seeded in Group 1 alongside Cerro Porteño and Deportivo Municipal Bolivia, winning every match of their group but one (a 1–1 away tie vs Cerro), with Pelé scoring his first goal in a brace against Cerro. Santos defeated Universidad Católica in the semifinals and met defending champions Peñarol in the finals in which Pelé scored another brace in the playoff match to secure the first title for a Brazilian club. Pelé finished as the second best scorer of the competition with 4 goals. That same year, Santos defended, with success, the Campeonato Brasileiro (with 37 goals from Pelé) and the Taça Brasil (Pelé scoring four goals in the final series against Botafogo). Santos also won the 1962 Intercontinental Cup against Benfica. Wearing his iconic number 10 shirt, Pelé produced one of his best ever performances and scored a hat-trick in Lisbon, as Santos won 5–2.


As the defending champions, Santos qualified automatically to the semifinal stage of the 1963 Copa Libertadores. The ballet blanco managed to retain the title in spectacular fashion after impressive victories over Botafogo and Boca Juniors (hated Buenos Aires rivals of my team in Argentina, River). Pelé helped Santos overcome a Botafogo team that contained legends such as Garrincha and Jairzinho with an agonizing last-minute goal in the first leg of the semifinals and bring the match to 1–1. In the second leg, Pelé produced one of his best performances as a footballer with a hat-trick in the Estádio do Maracanã as Santos crushed Botafogo, 0–4, in the second leg. Appearing in their second consecutive final, Santos started the series by winning, 3–2, in the first leg and defeating the Boca Juniors of José Sanfilippo and Antonio Rattín, 1–2, in La Bombonera, with another goal from Pelé, becoming the first (and so far only) Brazilian team to lift the Copa Libertadores on Argentine soil. Pelé finished the tournament as the top scorer runner-up with 5 goals. Santos lost the Campeonato Paulista after finishing in third place but went on to win the Rio-São Paulo tournament after an impressive 0–3 win over Flamengo in the final, with Pelé scoring one. Pelé would also help Santos retain the Intercontinental Cup and the Taça Brasil.

Santos tried to defend their title again in 1964 but they were thoroughly beaten in both legs of the semifinals by Independiente. Santos won again the Campeonato Paulista, with Pelé netting 34 goals. The club also shared the Rio-São Paulo title with Botafogo and win the Taça Brasil for the fourth consecutive year. The Santistas would try to resurge in 1965 by winning, for the 9th time, the Campeonato Paulista and the Taça Brasil. In the 1965 Copa Libertadores, Santos started convincingly by winning every match of their group in the first round. In the semifinals, Santos met Peñarol in a rematch of the 1962 final. After two legendary matches, a playoff was needed to break the tie. Unlike 1962, Peñarol came out on top and eliminated Santos 2–1. Pelé would, however, finish as the top scorer of the tournament with eight goals. This proved to be the start of a decline as Santos failed to retain the Torneio Rio-São Paulo.


In 1966, Pelé and Santos also failed to retain the Taça Brasil as O Rei’s goals weren’t enough to prevent a 9–4 routing by Cruzeiro (led by Tostão) in the final series. Although Santos won the Campeonato Paulista in 1967, 1968 and 1969, Pelé became less and less a contributing factor to the Santistas now-limited success. On 19 November 1969, Pelé scored his 1000th goal in all competitions. This was a highly anticipated moment in Brazil. The goal, called popularly O Milésimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama, when Pelé scored from a penalty kick, at the Maracanã Stadium.

Pelé states that his most beautiful goal was scored at Rua Javari stadium on a Campeonato Paulista match against São Paulo rival Juventus on 2 August 1959. As there is no video footage of this match, Pelé asked that a computer animation be made of this specific goal. In March 1961, Pelé scored the gol de placa (goal worthy of a plaque), against Fluminense at the Maracanã. Pelé received the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, and ran the length of the field, eluding opposition players with feints, before striking the ball beyond the goalkeeper. The goal was regarded as being so spectacular that a plaque was commissioned with a dedication to “the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã”.


After the 1974 season (his 19th with Santos), Pelé retired from Brazilian club football although he continued to occasionally play for Santos in official competitive matches. Two years later, he came out of semi-retirement to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1975 season. Though well past his prime at this point, Pelé is credited with significantly increasing public awareness and interest in soccer in the United States. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 NASL championship, in his third and final season with the club.


On 1 October 1977, Pelé closed out his career in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Santos. Santos arrived in New York and New Jersey after previously defeating the Seattle Sounders, 2–0. The match was played in front of a sold out crowd at Giants Stadium and was televised in the United States on ABC’s Wide World of Sports as well as throughout the world. Pelé’s father and wife both attended the match, as well as Muhammad Ali and Bobby Moore. Pelé played the first half for the Cosmos and the second half for Santos. Pelé scored his final goal from a direct free kick, and Cosmos won 2–1.


Pelé’s first international match was a 2–1 defeat against Argentina on 7 July 1957 at the Maracanã. In that match, he scored his first goal for Brazil aged 16 years and 9 months to become the youngest player to score in International football. I have to admit that my favorite Pelé moment was watching him head a “certain” goal into the net against England in the 1970 World Cup only to have Gordon Banks make a sensational save, diving backwards to his right. Pelé had turned away yelling “gol” convinced it had gone in. Oh well!!

In that same tournament I watched Pelé try to score from his own half against Czechoslovakia by lofting a long high ball at the goal from behind the halfway line when he saw that the Czech keeper was off his goal line. Just missed. I so hoped it would go in. Oh well, again !!

Here is a recipe for the great Brazilian fish soup, moqueca (mo-ke-ka). It is traditionally made with palm oil, but since palm oil production is devastating the Third World, I use olive oil which is also used commonly.




1 ½ to 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut, swordfish, or cod, rinsed in cold water, pin bones removed, cut into large portions
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp lime or lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
palm oil or olive oil
1 cup chopped spring onion, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped or sliced
¼ cup green onion greens, chopped
½ yellow and ½ red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped (or sliced)
2 cups chopped (or sliced) tomatoes
1 tbsp sweet paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish
1 14-ounce can coconut milk


Place the fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice so that the pieces are well coated. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Chill for several hours, rather like a ceviche.

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and onion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables. Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces on the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add back the previously removed vegetables, covering the fish. Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.

Bring soup to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with cilantro. Serve in deep bowls with rice.