Tag Archives: football

The long and complicated history of Aboriginal involvement in football

Roy Hay, Deakin University

Over the next two weekends, the Australian Football League celebrates the contribution of Indigenous peoples to the history of the game.

At the same time, a new documentary will show how one of the modern Indigenous superstars of the sport, Adam Goodes, was driven from it by prejudice and repeated denigration.

Clearly, Indigenous players have made huge inroads in professional Australian football leagues. In fact, to mark this year’s Indigenous round, the AFL Players Association recently updated its map celebrating the 84 male Indigenous players and 13 female players in the league and showing where they come from.

But in order to understand how we got to this point, it’s important to know the full history of Indigenous involvement in the sport, including the discrimination faced by players like Goodes, and all those who came before him.

Indigenous men playing football in a paddock at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, 1904.
State Library of Victoria, Author provided

The early days on missions and stations

In my latest book, Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century, I examine the long history of Aboriginal involvement in Australian football since the game was codified in the middle of the 19th century. It’s a story of resilience in the face of sometimes overwhelming obstacles to their participation.

By the 1860s, the Indigenous population of Victoria had been drastically reduced to just a few thousand people, due largely to massacres, disease, and the other impacts of European settlement. Most of these people were confined to missions or stations in remote parts of the colony under the control of “protectors.”

Read more:
The Aboriginal football ethic: where the rules get flexible

In the second half of the century, the Indigenous inhabitants of these institutions saw the white settlers playing football and sought to take part. They brought skills developed in hunting and their own games like marngrook and joined the white players in football games, first as individuals and then by forming their own teams.

Eventually, the Indigenous teams started taking part in and then winning local leagues. It was a triumph of the human spirit in the face of appalling adversity.

This story can only be told because the deeds of these early generations of Indigenous players were reported in the sports pages of newspapers digitised by the National Library of Australia. Indigenous deeds on the field were being recounted positively, a contrast to the typical media reports of the day focused on “outrages” committed by – or less often, against – our original inhabitants.

Dominating and winning league titles

The numbers of Indigenous players remained small throughout the 19th century and getting leave to compete from the missions and stations was often difficult or inconsistent. Indigenous Australians may have found it slightly easier to break into individual sports like pedestrianism or boxing than team games like cricket and football at the time.

But many Indigenous teams found success. At Coranderrk in the Upper Yarra Valley near Melbourne, Indigenous people from the station began playing regularly in the 1890s, forming a team to compete in local competitions involving three non-Aboriginal teams, Healesville, Lilydale and Yarra Glen.

Read more:
What if Indigenous Australians didn’t play footy?

Dick Rowan was invited to play with the South Melbourne club in 1892, but when he sought permission to play again the following season, he was refused by the Board for the Protection of Aborigines of Victoria. Their reason: if he was allowed to play, others would wish to follow. The board wanted to keep Indigenous people on the periphery.

In 1911, the Coranderrk team won the local league against white teams for the first time, but could not field a team the following year after several of their players were recruited by other clubs.

Other dominant Indigenous teams of the era included Framlingham, Lake Condah, Lake Tyers and above all Cummeragunja. Cummeragunja had suffered heavy defeats in the late 1880s, but the team eventually became so strong that it won the Western and Moira League five out of six years, and was promptly handicapped. (They were not allowed to field players over the age of 25.) In 1900, they ran rings around a strong Bendigo team and gave a Ballarat team a close game, as well.

The Redgummers, the name given to the team of combined Barmah and Cummeragunja players, 1905.
State Library of New South Wales, Author provided

Lake Tyers in Gippsland followed a similar pattern. After the first world war, the team became the receptacle for Indigenous players moved from other stations and missions around the state and was extremely successful, winning the East Gippsland League in 1934, 1938 and 1939.

Critics will point out that this was only “bush football”, but that was all that was on offer to Indigenous teams. They could not get regular matches against professional Melbourne teams, and Indigenous players were denied opportunities to play in senior leagues owing to racial bias.

There were a few exceptions, including Doug Nicholls from Cummeragunja, who was later knighted and became governor of South Australia. He rhapsodised about playing the game:

Once on the football field, I forget everything else. I’m playing football. I never take my eyes off that ball. My aim is not only to beat my opponent, but also to serve my side. I realise that in football as in other things, it’s team-work that tells.

Read more:
Indigenous players didn’t invent Australian rules but did make it their own

My aim in writing this book was to show how the history of the game could be rewritten to better reflect Indigenous contributions and experiences by using newspapers and other materials of the day as a basis, even the much maligned “colonial record”. This may assist Indigenous peoples to tell the story from their perspective about what happened to their ancestors and their more recent history.

As the Wiradjuri historian Lawrence Bamblett argues, this could have a positive impact on the sport and help counter the racism and discrimination that Indigenous peoples still face both on and off the field.

…broadening the discourse will bring representations of Aborigines in the writing about sport more closely into line with the richer lived experiences of individuals, and this in itself combats racism.

My hope is that some young Indigenous people with an interest in football will take up this story and tell it from their unique perspective.The Conversation

Roy Hay, Honorary Fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

From jousting to football: the ideal man hasn’t changed much since medieval times

Emma Levitt, University of Huddersfield

Anyone with a moderate interest in history will know that in the later years of his reign, Henry VIII seemed to have an identity crisis. His personality change from a generous and virtuous prince into a monster and tyrannical king is well documented, and has been debated by Tudor historians for decades.

It has long been thought that this change came about due to a particularly bad jousting accident on January 24 1536, when Henry was thrown from his horse, who in turn fell upon him, causing a two hour loss of consciousness. Although he recovered, the incident, which ended his jousting career, caused serious leg problems, which plagued him for the rest of his life.

Now this has been corroborated by the scientific community. According to neurobiologists at Yale University, the accident may well have caused an undetected brain injury that profoundly affected his personality and memory. The team retrospectively analysed the nature of Henry VIII’s well documented personality change, proposing that
the Tudor king’s jousting habit may have led him to suffer from “traumatic brain injuries” similar to those experienced by American football players. An analysis of his “symptoms” led them to conclude that “the picture was so consistent with the sequel of chronic concussion, intellectual honesty would dictate writing about traumatic brain injury in Henry”.

This comparison between NFL players and Tudor jousters struck me as all too apt, because both pastimes represent the pinnacle of masculinity for their day.

Henry VIII: great with his lance.

Tournaments through the ages

Jousting tournaments originated in the 12th century. They were central to the world of medieval chivalry, used as training grounds for knights in the achievement of prowess, honour and renown. In the early tournaments, the mock battle (the mêlée) was not formalised, or even confined to the field at hand. Knights would be assigned to two opposing teams and would charge at each other on a given signal: a practice that was not at all dissimilar to medieval warfare.

By the 15th century the mêlée had grown completely out of fashion and had been replaced by the single combat that was now the high point of the tournament. The joust was fought between two individuals, the knights riding from opposite ends of the lists to encounter each other with lances. It was much easier to identify the victor in the jousts compared to the mass participators in the mêlée.

By the reign of Henry VIII, the joust had become a more formalised competition. Rules had been introduced, including score cheques and prizes. The tournament included three basic categories of martial encounter: the joust, the tourney and the foot combats, or fighting at the barriers. In the tourney teams of knights fought on horseback with swords, staves and clubs, rather than lances, but as in the jousts, the number of strokes delivered determined the number of scores. The foot combat involved two contestants fighting on foot with a variety of weapons, such as swords, pikes, clubs or poleaxes. Henry’s men needed to be expert in all three contests if they were to succeed in the Tudor tournament.

Henry held more than 50 tournaments at his court, most in the first 20 years of his reign. He had been taught to engage in combat on both foot and horseback and he was trained in a variety of weapons, and put these skills to the test by frequently competing in tournaments – up until his 1536 accident. Henry would often take on the role of chief challenger, leading a team of four to six knights into the tiltyard ready to compete against the opposition, not unlike the role of the captain of the England football squad today.

‘High’ 16th-century jousting in Paulus Hector Mair’s compendium.

Manly jousting

Like modern day sports events, Tudor tournaments attracted competitors, spectators and foreign guests from far. They were one of the few occasions for ordinary people to see their king and his courtiers, and in their best guise: the chivalric displays of tournaments emphasised the majesty of Henry VIII and his nobility and their superiority within Tudor society. It was an important arena in which men could demonstrate their individual prowess in front of a vast audience.

In the Tudor period the medieval knight was still considered the ultimate male pinup. One man who was able to fully embody this knightly ideal was Charles Brandon, considered the Wayne Rooney of the jousting world. Brandon was able to build for himself an entire career that was founded on his ability to achieve high scores in the tiltyard. Surviving score cheques from the Tudor court illustrate that few men could beat him. Skilled jousters were given the unique opportunity to prove that they were better than the king, and he rewarded their displays of chivalry and masculinity. Of course, this was a sticky game – it was in their interest not only to give the king a well fought match, but ultimately they still had to ensure that Henry won in the end.

Luckily, today’s football players don’t have that particular delicacy to deal with. No need to lose on purpose. But other aspects of this ideal of medieval masculinity transmit perfectly into the modern world. Henry Cavill, who recently played Brandon in the television series, The Tudors, has since starred as superhero legend Superman in Man of Steel. Superman, an icon of heterosexual masculinity, is quite literally the modern version of the erstwhile man of steel, flying on horseback down the tiltyard in his plate armour supported by his superhero body.

So whether a “silly boy with a horse and a stick” (as Jocelyn of A Knight’s Tale so eloquently put it), a man kicking a ball or flying in his iconic cloak, the ideal male proves himself with props aplomb.

The Conversation

Emma Levitt, PhD Candidate, University of Huddersfield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New Website Captures World Cup History

10 Incredible Facts About The FIFA World Cup

110th anniversary of FIFA

Today in History: 16 March 1872

First FA Cup – Wanderers F.C. Defeated Royal Engineers A.F.C.

The first ever FA Cup is won by Wanderers F.C., defeating Royal Engineers A.F.C. 1-0 at The Oval in Kennington, London, England. The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world.

For more, visit:

See also the following Document:
Teams That Have Won the Football Association Cup

Today in History – 21 May 1904

Football: FIFA is Formed

On this day in 1904 the International Federation of Association Football (Federation Internationale de Football Association), more commonly known as FIFA, was formed. Fifa is the international governing body for football (soccer). FIFA is made up of 208 national football associations and its president is currently Sepp Blatter.

FIFA seems to be more in the news these days for accusations of corruption than for its showpiece the FIFA World Cup of football.

For more on FIFA see:


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