Football, and football violence, go back a long way in this country, to a distant past of tribal conflict – family against family, clan against clan, ain folk against the world. They are to be found in the Middle Ages among the fighting families of the Anglo-Scottish Border, as George MacDonald Fraser’s book The Steel Bonnets makes clear.[*] His synonymous reivers, raiders or riders used to get off their horses and play the football that became soccer and rugby, and they were not afraid of a few fouls: ‘some quarrel happened betwixt Bothwell and the Master of Marishal upon a stroke given at football on Bothwell’s leg by the Master, after that the Master had received a sore fall by Bothwell.’
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[*] Collins Harvill, 404 pp., £6.95, 9 March, 0 00 272746 3. First published in 1971.