Soccer and Society: South Wales, 1900-1939

By Martin Johnes | Go to book overview

III
RAG-BALLS, SCHOOLBOYS AND DISTRICT LEAGUES:
THE WORLD OF AMATEUR SOCCER

I was just a wee lad when I played football for the first time. The pitch was
the hard surface of Curre Street, Cwm, and the ball was a wad of rags
lightly bound up with string. All the boys in the neighbourhood, big and
small, joined, and no matter whether we played under association or rugby
rules the thrills were fast and furious.

Ron Burgess, Tottenham Hotspur and Wales1

For every professional match that took place, there were countless games played in parks, on waste ground and in the streets. For every professional soccer hero, there were thousands of dreamers trying to recreate his deft dummies, crunching tackles and powerful shots. The amateur or junior game ranged from small town teams in the Welsh League’s second division to kickabouts on the streets with coats as goal posts.2 Through this myriad of clubs, soccer was the leading physical pastime of a considerable proportion of the male population. Without this personal experience of the game, the thousands who flocked to see the professionals would never have emerged in the numbers that they did. Junior football was not just about playing. Its most important matches could attract crowds of several thousand who spilled onto the rough pitches in public parks, fields or mountainsides. Yet other games were highly localized events watched by just a handful of friends and family. This was the community at play. This chapter examines the world of junior soccer from the district leagues at its heart, to the street football that caused so many broken windows and so much residential anger.

1 Burgess. Football, p. 9.

2 Although ‘junior soccer’ is used here to refer to amateur clubs of all levels, the contemporary press was inconsistent in its use of the terra, occasionally taking it to mean only schoolboy and youth games.

-81-

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