Sheffield FC in 1857
If previous world cups are anything to go by, the meat grinder of the European leagues will have ground down the best the players in the world and it can fall to a younger and less well known players to shine. My two best teams in 2010 – Ghana and Germany – lost their best known players (Ballack and Essien both of Chelsea) yet still ended up being the most entertaining teams of the tournament. This is because of the tough physical realities of playing in the biggest money leagues in the world – La Liga in Spain and The Premiership in England. When Gianlucca Vialli came to Chelsea from Juventus in 1996 he spoke no English and had to learn from scratch. One of the first words he learned playing in the Premier league was “knackered”.
But there is more to it than just physical condition at the end of a long season. Highly experienced strikers like those prosper within a team, the team they are familiar with and integrated to. This is because clubs are the essence of football, not countries. Some would say that club football is the true football – a team of players who play together every week, rain or shine; no countries, no flags just talent – as Arsene Wenger said when he joined Arsenal the same year as Vialli signed for Chelsea – “if you are good, you are in … that’s all …”
As far as anyone can tell, the first association football club to be founded was Sheffield FC in Yorkshire in 1857, the same year as the Indian Mutiny and when the Liberals were in power and Lord Palmerston was PM. The club pre-dates the formation of the Football Association in 1863, at the Freemason’s Tavern, Mortlake, London by Ebenezer Cobb Morley.It was Morley who drafted the first of the rules at his home in Barnes, London and played in the first game under those rules – between two (upmarket) districts of south-west London – Barnes v Richmond, the result was a 0 – 0 draw.
At the outset clubs played to their own rules, being divided into teams who played each other. In 1860, Sheffield contested the first inter – club game against city rivals Hallam – the first ever “City Derby”. Initially they played at Bramall Lane, but moved away and the site is now the home of Sheffield United of League One. The club eventually moved out of the county and are now based in Dronfield, Derbyshire where they continue to play to this day as an amateur side in the Northern Premier League. Their greatest successes were 1904 when they won the FA Amateur Cup and in 1977 they were runners-up in the FA Vase. In 2004 they were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit as the world’s oldest club still playing competitively – the only other club to be honoured that year was Real Madrid for their outstanding contribution to the club game.
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