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James Catton, 1922: Development of football abroad

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-08-02 12:04:00

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James Catton | 25/09/1922

The question may seem so irrelevant as to produce a coarse guffaw. Yet there is evidence that Association football is progressing in many lands. Are we, English or British, without petty distinctions of frontiers or boundaries in these islands, developing the science of the game?
Are we, the pronoun being still used in a national sense, not attaching too much importance to points, to cups, and to balance-sheets? Clubs and players alike are too eager to win and too keen on gain. What of our football, the innate quality of it, the artistic side and the sporting sentiment which actuate it.
It may futile to plough lonely furrow. It may be like the voice of one crying in the wilderness to consider quality, artistry, and sentiment, but necessity compels the abandonment of policy of acquiescence and silence. FINE PLAYERS IN GERMANY
— Unknown friends in various parts of the world often send news that is valuable. Whether publicity is given to their communications or otherwise, such news is interesting and valuable. "An Old Correspondent," an informed and experienced Scotsman, still with the Army of Occupation on the Rhine, under a recent date, contributes a thoughtful criticism of what he has seen. He says:
» The first club visit Cologne within recent weeks was Sparta F.C., Prague, champions of Czecko-Slovakia. This club beat the famous Celtic twice May last. They were playing a combined team of the two Koln (German) clubs, and Koln won by 2—1. Sparta have a fine team, and their right-half and inside-right are fit for any company. I would not say that they were the equal of our best clubs at home, but they would beat more clubs than would beat them.
» The next club I saw was Hamburg, German champions for 1922. They beat Koln by 3-1 — all scored by their centre-forward. This is a great club. Their dribbling, passing, and ball control are wonderful. The centre-forward, who is over 6ft. in height, has the speed of a greyhound, and the ball control of an Alan Morton.
» Their outside-right is one the finest players I have ever seen. I have seen the famous Jocky Simpson, Meredith, Dicky Bond, Chedgzoy, Walden, etc., and I know a player when I see one.
» The other game I saw was Nurnherg, champions of Germany in 1920 and 1921. Nurnberg and Hamburg met in the final of this year’s German championship, Hamburg winning by a penally goal after two drawn games. This game between Nurnberg and Koln ended in a draw — two goals each. Nurnberg gave a great display of pure football, but their shooting was off.
» Well, to sum up, I have seen three of the finest clubs on the Continent within recent weeks, and I must candidly say that I was amazed with what I saw. The speed of the game here is astonishing, and never slackens. I was surprised to see such wonderful ball control and general play. If there are any defects, I would say they were in heading and shooting. Well, shooting at home has been more or less a lost art for years.
» We not give due credit to foreigners for the rapid progress they have made at the game. From what I have seen, I know that the best teams have practically nothing to learn, and could beat most of our clubs. However, you cannot have perfection in a comparatively short time.
To this British soldier, who knows the subject from A to Z, the thanks of this country are due. SUCCESS IN SWITZERLAND
A gentleman at Lucerne, Switzerland, states that, having spent a number of years in England and seen all the leading teams, he would like to let me know the "progress football is making over here in Switzerland."" During this month he saw Lucerne (the Finalists in Switzerland last year) play Bruhl F.C., St. Gallen. He continues:
— I was much impressed with the game, especially by the St. Gallen team, who were a big team; very fast, and with good combination. They beat Lucerne 2-0. I find that their trainer is Handley, the former outside-left of Bradford City. There are also Hogan with the Young Boys of Berne, and Humphreys, the old Chelsea player, with the Berne F.C.
» The other trainers with the other leading teams are mostly from Austria.
To Mr. Benz — many thanks. IN THE DOMINIONS
Lewis Harrison, known to footballers and cricketers in Nottingham, but now of Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, sends an interesting letter and a copy of the Friend, newspaper, which points out that South Africa contemplate sending an amateur team to England 1924.
A commentator observes:
The biggest consideration is that, until we send a Springbok team across the ocean, we shall not have achieved our national status at the game. We must give the young fellow playing Soccer the same inducement to perfect himself at the game as his Rugby confrere has. Soccer to-day is as good in South Africa as cricket was when the first Springbok cricketers visited England and I dont think they had any reason to grumble at the successes they achieved. We have got to start some time, and the sooner the better in the interests of Soccer.
The South Africans are not for the moment enamoured of English professional football, but that is another story. Quite clearly they have ambitions towards progress.
Mr. A. E. Gibbs, the Australasian representative on the F.A., forwards more copies of The Soccer News, weekly periodical published in Sydney, New South Wales, from which I gather that "the sun never sets on the Soccer game,” and that men, who are leaders on the other side, have such inspiring watchwords as "Upward! Onward!" in spite all difficulties.
Australasia is now considering the ways and means of raising the necessary money by which to finance a tour by English players — a most desirable move if this part of the world is not to be cut up between the British Rugby League, the Rugby Union, and the Victorian football authority.
Not long ago Mr. Thomas W. Cahill, of New York, declared that the eaglets of America would beat the clubs of England. Scottish and English players are migrating to the land of the West.
An Oxford University Association team has recently completed what seems to have been a most interesting tour of Scandinavia. Three Swedish teams were met at Stockholm. The Swedes won the first match by 4—3, and both the other games were drawn — 4-4 and 2-2. At Copenhagen the Oxonians won by 1-0. ADVANCE THERE: STAGNATION HERE
From every point of the compass comes the same story — the serious study of the Association game and its advance. From Prague, Cologne, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Brussels, Genoa, Stockholm, Copenhagen, America, and even from South Africa and Australia with their passion for the Rugby code, there are reports progress from men who can judge.
England, Great Britain, cannot afford to ignore these manifestations, unless we ere content to be the outcasts of the islands. English Association football is not a standstill. The interest in the game is inverse ratio to its quality and virtue. There is a patent lack of thought, design, generalship, ball control, and sporting spirit in far too many teams, even those with reputations.
The spectators seem have accepted earnestness, energy, vigour, speed, and the result as substitutes for the finer virtues. One match is very like another because football, as shown by the majority of the professional teams, is so stereotyped. "I don’t know how it is, but the giants appear to be gone,” writes a friend in London. The reason is that the player of to-day mistakes earnestness, energy, speed, and kicking without precision and purpose for football.
Wake up England! Arouse a spirit emulation in all that is excellent both in conception and executive. Show constructive football and illustrate the beauty of the game. Banish all this fury, all this spirit resentment, and all this footracing and wrestling under the ridiculous notion that it is football.
Footraces and wrestling matches are individual contesis, each man, as rule, fighting for his own hand. Football is a team game, demanding the team-spirit, collective thought and action, and a large measure of skill. Our winter game is not "picked up" and played with success in two minutes by any country lout, by any city lounger, and by idle apprentices, who wish to escape from the thraldom of the mine, the factory, and the bench.
Football is a game of intense skill as much as cricket, and it is the vert highest form of that skill which is wanted for England's honour, for our international record of late years is painful, nothing else, and will become even worse if the players are not as jealous of the honour of the land that gave them birth, as they are of their own personal reputation. It may be that in the artificial system deemed necessary bu the League there is more inducement to endure than mature. But with evert country advancing shall England become the lame duck? Reverently I say God forbid.