Welcome back on to AFROTRADOSPORTS after a short break. This is to all our regular readers. I know that some of you are like me. How? What do I mean? I mean that, we are sport lovers. We are not sport bigots. Despite that I have more interest, affinity, attraction, commitment, preference, passion etc. for Traditional Sports, I am a regular visitor to all sports; including motor sports, aquatic, martial and especially Trans World Sports. I must confess, I thoroughly enjoyed THE WORLD CUP or I should say “The World Cups”. Yes, it is not a mistake to talk of the multiple world cups in this June – July – August, 2018 if you followed them as I did. We had four major terrestrial world cups in these three months:
- Football (soccer) – Russia 2018 – Moscow, Russia
- Rugby Sevens (Male & Female) – San Francisco – U.S.A
- Field Hockey (Female) – London, Britain
- U 20 Football (Soccer) Female – France, (Paris France)
What really fascinated me about the three sports is that, they resemble each other and their modern heritage is from England. The resemblance of the three sports notwithstanding, they are very different from each other.
Incidentally, soccer/football and rugby football were children of the same parents from England. In fact, I see the two of them as Siamese twin, separated by two schools of thought.
In fact if I may go further and pull the three sports together, by the nature of play, shape of facilities, size of facilities, number of players etc., these three sports – Field Hockey, Rugby football and soccer/football are triplets, yet they are very different from each other with their different destinies on their different fields of play, displaying their individual peculiarities and drawing tremendous and fantastic followership all over the globe.
Historically, soccer/football started as a modern game right from the start in 1863. However it had its “traditional roots” according to fifa.com, footballhistory.org et al. Such related roots include China where a sport with semblance of football back in the 2nd and 3rd B.C. was called Tsu.Chu. Another one was the Japanese root of football with a sport called Kemari. The third root game of football was Episkyros from Greece. Then there was Harpastum from the Romans. The Romans took the “effigy” of Harpastum (so to say) to England where a Midas touch was bestowed on it to transform it to football of various codes/versions such as rugby, American football, Canadian football, rugby league and of course the Association Football which is also called soccer. There were two public schools in England – Rugby and Eton. They became the “two schools of thought” that midwifed the twin sports of Rugby football and soccer football. In 1848, there was a serious gathering at Cambridge School to resolve the serious tussle of finalizing the code/version i.e. the rules that would prevail and govern football as an entity (one single sport).
The 1848 gathering at Cambridge School could not resolve the issue. It lingered on till 1863, when the resolution finally came with “To thy tenths” oh Rugby football and Football Association. The two schools of thought agreed to path ways giving rise to two giant ball sports, Rugby Football and Football Association.
I guessed, there was an imaginary contest in which there was a referee that put the two warring camps into two teams and gave them a tug-of-war rope to pull. When they pulled, they pulled with the same quantity of strength and when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In their case, it was the rope that cut. The side for the fore limbs of the rope went for the use of hands and the side for the hind limbs of the rope went for the feet and case closed. The Rugby group took to “taking up the ball from the ground and run with it” while the Eton group took to “keeping the ball on the ground, kicking and dribbling with it”. That was just creating fun out of that intricate history of football which took place in London in 1863, the year of birth for both Association football and Rugby football.
Let me digress a bit by giving you my practical experience with these three sports, celebrating World Cups, in this June-July-August, 2018 – Football (Soccer) Rugby football and Field hockey. It goes thus:
I played football (soccer) at a very amateurish level in primary, secondary modern school, teacher training college levels. I was quite good at using both feet to control the ball but a bit more proficient with the right foot with more dexterity. I used to be afraid of the real leather ball of football then. Children of my age were more homely with football, playing with the rubber balls than the real football ball made of leather. That was mainly because the leather football ball was still undergoing a very fundamental evolution “growth” and we players were lacking fundamental tool of playing soccer. The leather ball then had to be tucked-in after the inner tube had been inflated. After being tucked in, it would be laced up. That spot/sector where it was laced up was an enemy spot to our feet, because, we played bare footed. No soccer boots. When you hit the ball, or stopped the ball dead, meeting the leather ball with your naked foot, on the laced-up spot, sometime, you had no choice than your buttocks kissing the ground behind you and you, holding your leg there for a massage.
Definitely, the football leather ball played sixty years ago is not exactly the same as the one used at Russia 2018, due to technology and manufacturers’ zeal to revolutionize the ball.
I played field hockey at my class level as a student of Physical and Health Education at the University of Lagos under Dr. A.A. Adebayo. You use the hockey stick to hit the ball instead of kicking with your foot as in football. You use only the face of the hockey stick to contact the ball. In field hockey, you had penalty corner and penalty stroke and recently we got what they call penalty shoot-outs. In soccer you have one type of penalty taken in a designated spot taken in the same manner. In hockey, the ball is very hard and when the ball hits your shin, your playmates would tell you, “rob-it-in”, but to rob-it-in, you buttocks might have kissed the ground behind you already.
Whenever I watch Rugby, I see some elements of Langa in it, especially Ruwa category of Langa. In Ruwa category of Langa, the ‘king’, Ruwa would want, to escape, so in Rugby, the player holding and running with the ball, always trying to escape with the ball to the end line to score their points. If you have watched Kabbadi (an Asian Sport) you would have noticed there are some elements of Kabbadi in Rugby. These three triplets: games-soccer, hockey and rugby have “penalty Rules” to penalize an opposing side that commits grievous offence(s) at a particular area of the field of play.
Let us look at penalties at the Rowing World Cup (2018), Rules 72 and 84 in Rowing with the use of Yellow and Red cards, spell out the different levels of penalties as:
- And even, Exclusion from all events.
Using Abula Game as an example of African Traditional Sports, there are two penalty types. TYPE I: Under Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN). RED CARD OFFENCES IN TRADITIONAL SPORT. They include:-
- Insulting/Intimidating match officials
- Throwing of Bat(s) in Abula game
- Any violent disturbance
- Disruption of play……. Yellow card is to give strong and last warning. Red card is outright punishment. TYPE II: when the two teams, playing a match reach the GAME POINT OF 15-15 simultaneously in Abula Game, a DEUCE is called. A deuce is like a penalty shoot outs. The first team to get to the 20th point wins the set.
So we can see that as many sports that we visit, so are their penalties/penalty rules very unique and very peculiar to each of them. “Penalty” in football is very simple to understand and highly exciting to watch but very intricate for a referee to decide.
That leads us to the latest technology, first used in world cup, Russian 2018. It is called VAR, i.e. Video Assistant Referee. That shows that soccer is a living sport developing and accommodating new technologies and ideas as it is growing and developing through the ages. It must be realized that the use of whistle was introduced sometimes ago. Imagine the time the referee would have operated without the use of whistle! And talking about the use of whistle let me ask you a question. How would you react if your team is playing and the referee officiating the match, on seeing a player against your team falling down with just a very light contact with your team player, inside the vital box, and the referee raises his hand up and opening his palm, displaying a red whistle inadvertently, won’t you miss your breath? Yes, if that is the first time you are seeing that red whistle at that point in time, you are bound to be jittery. Even, it may be life-threatening for a very highly sensitive match to a very hypertensive follower/desperate and passionate fan. May be, manufacturers of whistles should avoid whistles of red color. It can be very scary when you see a red whistle in a tension soaked match. What do you think? Well, let me ask you another question. What makes football to be the most popular sport on earth? To my mind, they include:
- The word “GOAL”
- Simultaneous availability of cheapest and most expensive facilities among others.
- Huge investments on players, clubs, and facilities (infrastructure) i.e. stadia.
- Awards for the skillfulness and productivities of very popular players as heroes/heroines
- Championships all over the place, especially THE WORLD CUP, UEFA etc.
- Improvisation of facilities among school children and children out of school system.
- Above all, it has the rules that everybody can interpret with utmost ease and accuracy; hence everybody is a coach/referee.
If care is not taken, the children will improvise football playing field inside their sitting room, worse still, on top of their parents’ bed. Football is the naturally most available game to school children in my own part of the world as at today. Popularity of football was promoted at the initial stage of growth by public schools. That is why our leaders in Africa should promote our Traditional Sports through both public and private schools and should emulate Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr and dream of world cup(s) for African Traditional Sports now. In the very near future, there would be world cups on our African Traditional Sports. We can only achieve that in Africa, if we provide facilities that will make the sports grow and develop in the schools. You cannot promote sports without making the medium of practicing them available.
Well, thank you, we shall meet at the second half of this write up in no distance time.
Mallam Elias Yusuf