Fútbol: An Origin Story

Nov 21, 2022 | Commentaries

In the beginning, “sport” was wrestling and hitting. And big people ruled.

Then, some decided to add swords and clubs, and smaller folks did better. People died, so they went back to grappling and hitting. Strong people continued to rule.

Eventually someone said, “Let’s make things more difficult! Let’s add a ball and let them wrestle for the ball!” Rugby was born, and big, fast people ruled.

Later, someone said, “Let’s add a stick to hit a small ball. And let’s make the stick huge, like a club.” Cricket was born. Those who were good at hitting balls with sticks who didn’t like to run so much got to rule.

Time passed and someone had another idea, “Let’s run around the field and hit each other with our sticks.” Lacrosse was born. Big, fast people who didn’t mind getting hit with sticks excelled.

To make things even harder someone added, “Let’s have them play on ice, with skates, and they can run into each other as much as they want, but they can’t hit each other with their sticks.” Hockey was created. Big people who could skate fast and who liked running into each other excelled.

Through all these sports there was one constant, big, strong, fast people got to beat up on smaller individuals. And life was very good for the big, fast, and strong.

Late one night, after a few pints in a pub, Michael, a slight man, turned to his friend Ian and said, “I’m really tired of getting beat up in every sport we try.” (Note from the author: I’m pretty sure these were not their names but go with me here.)

“Not much we can do about it,” replied Ian.

“We need a sport for small, fast blokes like us,” said Michael. “No tackling, no getting hit with sticks, and no hitting a ball with a stick. I’m terrible at that.”

“And what kind of game would that be?” asked Ian.

“It’ll be a sport where no one can use their hands,” said Michael. “You can only move the ball by kicking it…and maybe using your head.”

“So, everyone just runs around kicking a ball?” asked Ian. “Like keep away?”

“No! We’ll make each team kick the ball towards opposite ends of a field.”

“Ah, like Rugby. You kick it over your end line to score?” said Ian.

Michael raised his glass, “No! You’ll have to kick it into a net.”

“So, we all just run around, and kick the ball into a net? No one will want to play that.”

“No! We’ll put the nets far apart, and everyone will have to run. They’ll run all the time! People like us will run circles around the big players keeping the ball away from them. Fans will cheer for us as we kick it into the net to score!”

Ian frowned. “The big players will just grab us, shove us to the ground, and score while we’re dusting ourselves off.”

“No!” exclaimed Michael. “If they so much as touch us, we can writhe around like we’ve been hit with a bat. The ref will stop the game. If they do it again, the ref can kick them out. Then, we’ll get to kick the ball down the field.”

“That won’t work,” said Ian. “The other guys will stand in front of us and block the kick.”

“No, they won’t. They’ll have to back away, 10 paces at least. It’ll be a free kick and we can kick it all the way into the net if we want.”

“Well, no one’s going to score if they have to kick a ball into a small net at the end of such a big field,” responded Ian.

“No!” said Michael. “We’ll make the nets HUGE! They’ll be taller than you can reach and 4 times as wide as you are tall.”

“Then, we’ll be scoring all the time?”

“No!” said Michael. “We’ll let one person stand in the net, and he can use his hands to stop the ball. We’ll call him the ‘Keeper of the Goal’. You score a point if you get the ball past him.”

“That won’t work!” exclaimed Ian. “He’ll just grab the ball, run down the field, and throw it into the goal.”

“No!” replied Michael. “The keeper has to stay in an area near his own goal. If he leaves that area, he can’t touch the ball with his hands. He can only kick it like everyone else.  We’ll even make him wear funny clothes so he can’t sneak out!”

“And, after you score, is the game over or do you have to score a number of goals to win?” asked Ian.

“No!” said Michael. “You can score as much as you want but you’ll only have 45 minutes to do it — non-stop! No breaks! You’ll be running all the time and you’ll think you’re going to die before it’s over.”

“So, the game is over after 45 minutes? That’s not too bad,” asked Ian.

“Good point,” said Michael.  “We’ll do it again for another 45 minutes just to make sure the big guys toss their lunches!”

“So, let me get this straight,” said Ian. “You run around, kicking the ball, with no hands and no tackling, trying to get the ball past a guy who can use his hands and into a huge net at the end of a long field, for 45 minutes, then you get a short break, and play another 45 minutes?”

“Yep!” said Michael. “And if no one scores in the first 90 minutes, you keep playing… maybe just for 30 minutes so no one dies”

“And what happens if no one scores at the end of the extra time?” asked Ian.

“Then we line up players, 10 steps from the huge goal, and one by one they try to kick it past the other team’s keeper,” responded Michael.

“And what do you call that? A ‘kick off?’” asked Ian.

“No, we’ll call it a ‘Shoot Out’! I like the sound of that. We’ll have five players from each team give it a try and the best of five wins,” said Michael.

“So, that’s all the rules?” asked Ian.

“Nooooo!” shouts Michael as he raises his cup to the entire pub. “Our game is going to be the most popular game in the world. It won’t just have rules. We’ll have LAWS! Our game will be like a country! With laws! And we’ll have teams from around the world play in a tournament every four years! And we’ll call it the World Cup! And, best of all, we’ll have women and children playing. Everyone will want to play our sport!”

“So, what are we going to call this game?” asked Ian.

“We’ll call it ‘Fút bol’ of course! What else would we call it!” exclaimed Michael.

And that’s how Fútbol was born!

Or something like that.