Thursday, February 9, 2017

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 316: Read “The Laws of the Game”

Ebenezer Cobb Morley
I have to admit that I’m really excited by the fact that Hillcrest High School has launched varsity soccer as a new sport at the school.

Like most everybody, I’m somewhat familiar with the sport, but there’s a lot that I don’t know about it. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but it’s not played much in our part of the world outside of large cities like Mobile or YMCA youth programs. I know that, for the most part, you can’t touch the ball with your hands and the object of the game is to kick the ball into the net.

When I worked at the newspaper Waynesboro, Miss., the large high school there, which was similar to Hillcrest in many ways, had a well-developed girls soccer program, but if memory serves me correctly they did not have soccer for boys. Wayne County High’s girls soccer team was pretty good, and I remember several of their players going on to play college soccer after high school.

I think it’s important to note that those girls wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play college sports in more traditional girls sports like softball had it not been for the opportunity provided to them by high school soccer.

Now that Hillcrest has soccer, I find myself wanting to learn more about the sport for a couple of reasons. I want to be able to follow the games closely and know what’s going on, and I also want to do it justice in the newspaper each week.

I remembered reading somewhere that soccer originally only had 13 rules, called the “Laws of the Game,” which were written in December 1863 by English sportsman Ebenezer Cobb Morley at a meeting of the Football Association at The Freemasons’ Tavern in London. These handwritten rules were short and only took up a couple of pieces of paper. (Today, there are 17 official rules, and a copy of the International Football Association’s rule book is 210 pages long.)

I’d never read these original “Laws of the Game” before Monday, but thanks to Google, I found them online and read them from start to finish in the space of a few minutes. Some of them didn’t make complete sense to me, but maybe they will when I see them in action. Reading them also made me want to find a soccer game to watch on TV and also caused me to wonder how much a used copy of “Soccer for Dummies” would cost on Amazon.

It also dawned on me that there could be a need for local soccer officials or referees. My feeling is that the soccer rules aren’t as complex as the rules of regular football, so becoming a certified soccer referee might be something young men or women might want to explore if they’d like to make a little extra money on the side.

In the end, I’m looking forward to watching Hillcrest play soccer, and I hope that the community will turn out to watch this novel new sport in Evergreen. James Riley Jr. will serve as head coach for both the boys and girls teams, and he will have the distinction of being the first head soccer coach at Hillcrest. Perhaps years from now, local soccer fans will look back to this time in the same way that we look back at the early beginnings of soccer in the 1860s.

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