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Butler: Soccer reaches its 150th anniversary milestone

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Noel Butler
1/18/2013 2:03:08 PM
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A London public house could have been the only fitting venue.

The Freemasons' Tavern located a mile and a half from Buckingham Palace was the gathering spot back on Oct. 26, 1863 where Ebenezer Cobb Morley and his group of likeminded English gentlemen convened to set in motion the origins of organized football.

Following that original meeting - pub lunch not included - Morley and his group of merry men convened over a two- month period to carefully consider what ultimately are now considered the sport's original Laws of the Game.

Cambridge University can claim part ownership as it was there in 1848 the very first attempt is recorded at structuring a sport formally known as Association Football. Morley used the 'Cambridge Rules' as part of his template.

On Wednesday, the English Football Association convened in that very same location, today known as the Grand Connaught Rooms to celebrate Morley and to officially launch the FA's 150th anniversary. 

Centre stage was an inauspicious leather bound notebook. In perfect handwritten notes it contains football's DNA - this is the beautiful games original rulebook.

Guess what Luis Suarez, you could have caught the ball legally back then and a clean catch would have resulted in getting yourself a free kick. Imagine that. Now we know why the English are so very fond of the long ball game.

Where the fourth official today is focused on ensuring metrosexual man doesn't enter the field of play wearing items of jewelry which could be deemed a danger in 1863, the concern was ensuring players did not have nails or iron plates protruding from their boots.

It wasn't only the great and good of English football who gathered in central London in midweek. 

A star studded cast of international greats including the likes of Marcel Desailly and Lothar Matthaus mingled with the Sir Bobby Charlton's and Peter Shilton  England's most capped international and the goal keeper synonymous with Maradona's Hand of God goal at the 1986 World Cup Finals.

Video messages were led by Prince William and where would a star-studded soccer occasion be without Jose Mourinho piping up from the gallery.

The self-ordained Special 1 using the occasion to remind us all that English football holds a superior place in his heart and that at some point he will return. 

Coincidentally enough, it was almost a year ago when Mourinho stole England's thunder ahead of a EURO 2012 warm up at Wembley when he intentionally let the London media know what time he would be arriving into London's Heathrow on the morning of the match to go fabulous home shopping in swanky Sloane Square.

Mourinho hadn't even met up with his real estate agent before rampant speculation linking him to a Chelsea return dominated all the back pages and TV headlines.
 
Sepp Blatter reminded world football that not only was the English FA responsible for inventing the modern game but that they alone bore the responsibility to oversee at the sport's inception that the principles of honesty, fair play and integrity were its guiding philosophies.

Let's hope that through the course of the year -long celebration that those today who play at the highest level - be it club or international football and earn salaries unimaginable to Ebenezer Cobb Morley take time to reflect. In doing so use their substantial influence to ensure some of the highly questionable practices that sadly have become part and parcel of the game today slowly but surely remove themselves from the football pitch.
As part of the celebration how right and fitting it is and only two short years after hosting Barcelona's dismantling of Manchester United at the 2011 Champions League Final the birthplace of football Wembley Stadium will again host this year's final. What price those very same two teams meet again on May 25.

The English may be responsible for football's laws but it is the Brazilian's who have the global patent on natural football law. The two nations will meet in a pair of prestigious friendly matches.

These will take place at Wembley next month, then on June 2 Rio de Janeiro's Estádio do Maracanã will throw open its considerable doors for the very first time since undergoing a $500 million re-fit in time to host next summer's World Cup Final.

A very first National Football Day is planned for the summer where the grass roots of the game that directly involves over five million people or one out of every 10 people who live in England will take centre stage.

The year-long celebration will culminate on Oct. 26 this year - the actual 150th anniversary of Cobb Morley walking into that pub for a Gala Dinner where invitations will be as keenly sought as those to a certain spring 2011 wedding involving the President of the FA - Prince William.

Let's hope for England's sake the conversation that Gala Dinner night isn't dominated by talk of participation in November's World Cup Qualifying Playoffs. Football's founding nation having failed to guarantee an automatic Brazil 2014 berth.

If your football weekend takes you down the pub this weekend do raise your glass in reflective celebration of the English.

Having only played the solitary international in Burnaby just prior to the 1986 World Cup Finals let's hope our two nations don't have to wait another 150 years for the sequel.  

GET YOUR SHIRT ON LAMPARD

Not too sure that in any conversations or negotiations which have taken place between the Galaxy and Lampard's long term agent Steve Kutner the words 'Beckham's Replacement' have ever been uttered. As Beckham's fellow Londoner increasingly appears to be writing the final chapter of his Chelsea career a move to Los Angeles may well be on the cards. Away from the pitch 2 things that could help make that a reality - Lampard's fiancée is a TV Presenter and Lampard's jersey sales. Only 4 other players in the Premier League sell more shirts in North America than Super Frank and surely with those type numbers if indeed Lampard does pull up sticks stateside top spot in the MLS jersey charts awaits one of English footballs most affable players.

ADKINS DIET FLAWED

Surely the only rational reason with Southampton announcing that the man who steered the club from Division 1 mediocrity back in September 2010 when he was appointed to a place amongst England's elite less than 2 years later was a feeble attempt by the club to trump Bayern's news earlier this week that Pepe would become their new manager. I guess we should thank the St Mary's gutless that as irrational as this decision is they had the rational thinking not to make the announcement on Wednesday when the FA officially launched their 150th celebration. As later that day we may not have witnessed Southampton's glorious comeback away to Chelsea. Adkins leaves a winner. No surprise the neutrals are inundating the London bookies in the hope Southampton are rewarded with relegation.

HAIR DRYING CHARADES

Fergie's world famous hair dryer even makes noise during a game of charades. Part of a panel for the club's annual Big United Quiz of the Year for MUTV the Knight of the Realm was assigned the task of acting out Maradona's Hand of God goal. Just as his fellow panelists identified the scene Fergie dropped an expletive that was caught on camera but bleeped out of the show. United players Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney could not contain themselves as both of them are seen in fits of laughter following the gaffer's gaffe.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Catch Liverpool v Norwich live from Anfield on the TSN and TEAM Radio Networks this Saturday, with coverage kicking off at 9:30am et/6:30am pt.

You can also catch Manchester City v Fulham Live on TSN - 9:55am et/6:55 am pt.

Jack Wileshire (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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