Soccer Hooligans? Blame Those Miserable 16th Century Puritans

The Birmingham Post (England), January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Soccer Hooligans? Blame Those Miserable 16th Century Puritans


Byline: Sophie Blakemore

Soccer hooliganism has its roots in anti-authoritarian anger at Puritan bans on Christmas and inter-village football matches in the 17th century, according to research by a university professor.

Bernard Capp, of the University of Warwick, said winter and Easter riots were fairly common in the 1600s as an expression of disgust with the Scrooge-like 'misrule' of the establishment.

Prof Capp said violence became more common when the Puritans established themselves in power after the Civil War and banned sports they deemed disorderly, propelling football into the front-line of public protests. For example, when the Mayor of Canterbury proclaimed the ban on Christmas in December 1647, the crowd responded by bringing out footballs as a traditional symbol of festive mayhem.

'In the Puritan Revolution, football became a flashpoint for social and political tensions between Puritan authorities and their enemies,' the academic explained.

'Football originated as a seasonal sport, often played between rival villages on Shrove Tuesday or Easter, so during traditional times of seasonal festivities, which were then prohibited, such as during Christmas or before Lent, differences flared.

'In Tudor and Stuart times footballers often played on Sundays, the only regular day off work.

'This triggered open conflict between young folk and Puritans determined to impose a strict Sabbath by suppressing all profane activities on that day. …

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