Skip to Content

Shrovetide Football

The Global Game sent me a timely reminder that there’s a very special football game going on today. It’s the second of two games that have been played consistently over the last 1000 years or so, and, to many, is the precursor to the modern game whose birth we celebrate at Battersea Park. The game, more commonly referred to as “mob football”, takes place on a pitch three miles long in Ashbourne, Derbyshire and is played over the course of eight hours by two teams; the Down’ards and the Up’ards. Yesterday’s game was won by the Down’ards with the only “goal” being scored by a certain Brendan Harwood. Actually, the talk is of “the ball being goaled” — the ball itself being made of cork and hand-painted. Ouch!

Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger notes that interest in this traditional game is still rife amongst modern football’s higher echelons. According to him, just before West Germany played the USSR in the 1966 World Cup semi-final, Adi Dassler (founder of the eponymous adidas) had paid a visit to Ashbourne. The Germans beat the USSR in a closely fought match, and…

There were smiles all around, but one of the broadest did not belong to a player. Adi Dassler had gone to Ashbourne in Derbyshire to investigate the traditional Shrove Tuesday football match and had dug up and age-old, mouldering football boot which he proudly took home to display in his semi-private museum. The worth of a trophy is always relative.

The BBC has a mini-site devoted to Ashbourne Shrovetide Football 2006 which is very informative and worth a look if you’re lucky enough to be able to go this year.Something I liked very much, and had no idea existed, was the The Shrovetide Anthem, which was written for a concert in 1891:

The Shrovetide Anthem

There’s a town still plays this glorious game
Tho’ tis but a little spot.
And year by year the contest’s fought
From the field that’s called Shaw Croft.
Then friend meets friend in friendly strife
The leather for to gain,
‘And they play the game right manfully,
In snow, sunshine or rain.

‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.

For loyal the Game shall ever be
No matter when or where,
And treat that Game as ought but the free,
Is more than the boldest dare.
Though the up’s and down’s of its chequered life
May the ball still ever roll,
Until by fair and gallant strife
We’ve reached the treasur’d goal.

‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can
That tries the pluck of an Englishman.

Amen to that!

Written by on Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

No comments yet

Be the first to leave one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.