Friday, June 29, 2012

Soccer Was Greek (And More Violent)

Finishing up this week, I will talk about the history of soccer. For anyone reading this outside of the United States, this will be a history of football. But like a typical American, I will remain dead-set in my ways and refer to it as "soccer" throughout the post. I'm sorry for any confusion.

Ancient Greek Origin

Soccer, like marathons and the Olympics, also started in Greece! In fact, it comes from two sports called Episkyros and Harpastron.

Episkyro had 12 players on either side and took up the length of a modern soccer field. Episkyros (meaning "commonball") was around as early as 800 B.C.E. and allowed for the use of hands as well as feet. The goal was to maneuver the ball behind the opponent's line (similar to soccer.) The offense could kick, throw, or carry the ball, and the defense was allowed to stop the offense by any means necessary. Full-on tackles, punching, tripping and headbutting were allowed. Players sometimes died during the game.

Professional wrestling is SOO much manlier...
Harpastron (meaning "handball") was more like rugby than soccer. In Harpastron, the feet weren't used. The ball was passed, typically overhead, to teammates in an attempt to move it past the "goal" line.  Harpastron was not as popular as Episkyro in ancient Greece.

Roman Adoption and Spread

When the Romans conquered Greece in 146 B.C.E., they took two sports and merged them together to form Harpastum. Harpastum had no set player limit - some games were reported to have hundreds of players on either side! Hands and feet were allowed, but so was an ultra-violent defense. It was to a player's benefit to use their legs to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, or risk being torn apart like a bag of Doritos at a Motley Crue concert.

Harpastum was always played on field or sand because the players expected to be thrashed.
Harpastum was used by Roman military officers to keep their troops fit and entertained. As the Roman empire spread across Europe, so too did Harpastum. Eventually, over hundreds and hundreds of years, Harpastum diverged into two separate sports: the rugby and soccer we know today.

If you don't believe me when I say that Harpastum was violent, watch this video. It's in Spanish, so I'm not sure what they're saying.

It looks more like a scene from Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" than a sport!

This makes me think about people who complain about American Football being too violent. Compared to these guys busting each others' heads open without pads, American Football might as well be a televised pillow fight.

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