Mob football

Mob football

Overview


Mob football is the name given to some varieties of Medieval football, which emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Mob football distinguished itself from other codes by typically having an unlimited number of players and very few rules. By some accounts, any means could be used to move the ball to a goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder.
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Mob football is the name given to some varieties of Medieval football, which emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Mob football distinguished itself from other codes by typically having an unlimited number of players and very few rules. By some accounts, any means could be used to move the ball to a goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder. These early codes of football
Football
Football may refer to one of a number of team sports which all involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball with the foot to score a goal. The most popular of these sports worldwide is association football, more commonly known as just "football" or "soccer"...

 were forerunners of modern codes of football such as rugby football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

, gridiron football
Gridiron football
Gridiron football , sometimes known as North American football, is an umbrella term for related codes of football primarily played in the United States and Canada. The predominant forms of gridiron football are American football and Canadian football...

 and association football.

Harpastum
Harpastum
Harpastum, also known as Harpustum, was a form of ball game played in the Roman Empire. The Romans also referred to it as the small ball game. The ball used was small and hard, probably about the size and solidity of a softball...

, a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 game similar to modern Rugby Football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

, may have been introduced to Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

 during the Roman Conquest
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

, although there is no historical evidence to back up this claim. The uncertain origins of these games have attracted explanation by myth and legend. For example, in the UK, some claim that the games started as a celebration of the defeat of the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 in the 3rd century. The claim also exists that it was first played with the reproductive organ of a Danish ruler
Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the "Danes" held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It is contrasted with "West Saxon law" and "Mercian law". The term has been extended by modern historians to...

 of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 who had been deposed.

Whatever their exact origins may have been, by the Middle Ages these games had generally become annual celebrations and had a tendency to get quite out of hand. Mob football would have more resembled a riot
Riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

 than any of its descendants. The sport usually involved groups of men from two connecting villages (or two groups from either end of a single village) fighting to move a ball from one side to the other. The games were so unruly that royal bans were often placed on the playing of such sport. On 13 April 1314, Edward II of England
Edward II of England
Edward II , called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. He was the sixth Plantagenet king, in a line that began with the reign of Henry II...

 issued what is believed to be the first royal decree:
For as much as there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arrice, what God forbid, we can command and forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such games to be used in the city in future.

He prohibited the "hustling of large balls" because of the impact the sport had on the local merchants.
His ban was followed by decrees from Edward III of England
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, Henry IV of England
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

, Henry VI of England
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

 and James III of Scotland
James III of Scotland
James III was King of Scots from 1460 to 1488. James was an unpopular and ineffective monarch owing to an unwillingness to administer justice fairly, a policy of pursuing alliance with the Kingdom of England, and a disastrous relationship with nearly all his extended family.His reputation as the...

. The sport was considered to be "un-Christian" for its lack of order. Further restrictions against Mob Football came in 1835 with the Highway Act of 1835
Highway Act 1835
Highway Act 1835 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.The Highway Act 1835 places highways under the direction of parish surveyors, and allows them to pay for the costs involved by rates levied on the occupiers of land...

 prohibitting "The playing of football on public highways, with a maximum penalty of forty shillings." Mob Football has been forever imortalized by the writings of William Shakespear in his The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's earliest plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. The Comedy of Errors is one of only two of Shakespeare's...

:
Am I so round with you, as you with me, That like a foot-ball you doe spurne me thus: You spurne me hence, and he will spurne me hither, If I last in this seruice, you must case me in leather.


Each town or village would have played a slightly different game with rules that were not written down. The events were held on public holidays such as Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, and parts of the United States for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.The...

 when men would have been given the day off work. The sport can still be witnessed in some parts of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, notably Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and New Year
New Year
The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....

 in the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

 Kirkwall Ba game
Ba game
Ba game is a version of medieval football played in Scotland, perhaps most notably in Orkney and the Scottish Borders, around Christmas and New Year....

, and the Royal Shrovetide Football
Royal Shrovetide Football
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match occurs annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. It has been played since at least the 12th century, though the exact origins of the game are unknown due to a fire at the Royal Shrovetide Committee office in the...

 Match on Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, and parts of the United States for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.The...

 and Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

 in Ashbourne
Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Ashbourne is a small market town in the Derbyshire Dales, England. It has a population of 10,302.The town advertises itself as 'The Gateway to Dovedale'.- Local customs :...

 in Derbyshire
Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.