by Dagonell the Juggler

Surprize! Football is period, although our ancestors would probably have sneered at all the rules and regulations we've added to our game. Medieval football was called "Gameball", `game' being the Old English word for fight or battle. The rules were much simpler ... there weren't any! First team to get the ball into their opposing team's goal, wins.

The sides were seldom equal. Gameball was practice for battle and battle was frequently one-sided. In a friendly pickup game among knights on a campaign, the goals were probably only a few dozen yards apart. In regular games between neighboring villages (with everything the phrase `traditional rivals' implies) it was not unusual for the goals to be hundreds of yards or even one or two miles apart. Women as well as men played.

The ball was a pig's bladder, stuffed with dried peas and tightly sewn. Despite the care utilized in its construction, it often came apart in the middle of a game. A neutral person would throw the ball into the air as high as possible between the two teams and then run for dear life as the teams converged. There was no penalty for roughing the ref. The ball could be carried, kicked, passed or thrown, whatever got it closer to the goal.

As you may have realized, the potential for for mayhem was enormous. Documented instances of crippling injuries, including several fatalities abound. A papal dispensation was issued in 1321 to a player who accidentally killed an opponent. The Lord Mayor of London, Nicholas Farndon, prohibited the game due to the number of injuries it caused. The law was ignored.

In the mid-fifteenth century, a variation called "Kicking Camp" developed. The ball could ONLY be kicked, not carried or thrown. This game later developed into European football, called Soccer. The game of American Football evolved from the original game of "Camp Ball" which continued to be played right up to the Renaissance.

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