Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Sport - Kicks from the Past: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Sport - Kicks from the Past: Resources

Article excerpt

Donning Victorian attire for a lesson in the origins of football.

In mid June, a curious series of football games is due to be played between four schools in Sheffield. For the first half of the game, those taking part will look as if they have stepped out of the 1850s in their baggy shirts, caps and shorts that look more like jodhpurs. The students are likely to be kicking old-style leather footballs, too - a far cry from today's lightweight, precision-engineered versions. Only at half-time will they enjoy the respite of changing into modern gear.

History teacher Steve Faulkner, at All Saints Catholic High School, explains: "The swap is symbolic of the kind of switch that used to happen in the early 19th century, when football teams had to play each half according to each team's rules.

"Then, in 1857, Sheffield managed to insist its rules became the standard: handling the ball, in particular, was outlawed. And so the modern game was born."

Now, the central role that Sheffield played in football's evolution has been turned into a unique local project involving four schools (All Saints, Forge Valley Community School, Handsworth Grange Community Sports College and Westfield Sports College). Each is supported by local historians, and each has nominated teams of student researchers who have access to the rich archives held by the town's main football clubs. The project is being sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

"Sometimes history as a subject suffers because young people can't grasp its relevance," says Dr John Wilson, a specialist in learning and development based at the universities of Sheffield and Oxford. …

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