As the 20th staging of the FIFA Word Cup international football tournament finals gets underway today in Brazil, I thought it appropriate to combine my interest in genealogy with the great sport of [Association] Football – or soccer as it is known in countries such as America and Ireland where native team game players of old stole the football name before it could be copyrighted (yet perversely all other versions of football involve moving the ball by hand, mainly).
Even Football Clubs have birth certificates, strange as it seems – and some clubs are “getting on a bit.” Most established English clubs are now older than the oldest living Englishman. The FC birth cert below shows that one of England’s most successful teams, Liverpool Football Club, celebrated its 122nd birthday just last week. As with traditional vital records, this particular birth cert records the name of the proud father of the new arrival. In a bizarre twist which amuses football fanatics on Merseyside, Liverpool FC was spawned by its long-time arch-rival, Everton FC. In 1892, Everton was a popular and strapping 14 year-old. As genealogists know, in Victorian times it was quite common for teenagers to enter fatherhood or motherhood. Amazingly, LFC’s father, Everton is still going strong and rather cheekily keeps making comeback appearances which threaten to destabilize the red team’s recent domination of the soccer-mad city of Liverpool in terms of on-field success.
As a consequence of sharing my life with a Red Scouser, Liverpool FC have become my second favourite domestic side. I will never abandon my “first team” though, after my father dragged me along to become a spectator of my first professional football match as a schoolboy. Ancestrally, my family developed an unbreakable affinity with Blackburn Rovers Football Club which is even older than Liverpool FC and its daddy, Everton. As the club badge shows, Blackburn Rovers was baptized as a club in 1875, although this was a delayed christening after other nicknames had been adopted and rejected by the new kid on the 1870’s football scene.
Even BRFC was a relative youngster when it came into formal existence. The honour of elder statesman in English professional football ranks goes to Notts County FC. In November this year, Notts County will be 152 years-old having played about 4,750 Football League matches. County is still capable of showing some young upstarts a thing or two about the beautiful game, although the old man has not been fit enough to compete in the top division for 20 years. “At the end of the day, the legs have gone, late in the game,” as a semi-literate TV pundit will probably say more than once during the next glorious month of World Cup highlights.
The first FIFA World Cup Final tournament was held in South America in 1930, so it’s appropriate that the same continent hosts the finale of the 20th competition. My beloved BRFC was already in late middle age by then, and County had even become a pensioner. It’s a funny OLD game.