An abandoned cemetery long ago swallowed by the woods, its moss-covered headstones sunken sideways and limestone angels decapitated by vandals: an unfit resting place for the father of football, you might think. Yet in this lonely corner of Barnes Common in south-west London lies Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the sharp-chinned, bountifully-moustached Victorian solicitor who began the Football Association. As a player and founding member of local amateur side Barnes FC, he persuaded his fellow footballers to transform a violent and anarchic sport played in wildly different ways across the country into a national game with one accepted rule book. Through this effort he created association football, the world’s most popular sport loved by billions. Yet now he lies under a plain marble slab bearing only a name. Even most locals don’t know he’s there. Games resembling football can be traced back into ancient history. In medieval England, it was a wild, drink-fuelled affair regularly banned by the authorities. Rules began to be introduced at public schools in the early Victorian period, but these still varied from place to place, with no national codebook. Then everything changed on one date: October 26, 1863. At that point the Football Association was born, splitting… Read full this story
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