Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth Of British Football
A fascinating, funny and sometimes alarming tale of how a violent and chaotic folk game became modern football.
“Footeballe is nothinge but beastlie furie and extreme violence”, wrote Thomas Elyot in 1531. Nearly five hundred years later, the game may still seem furious and violent, but it has also become the most popular sport on the planet.This is the story of how the modern, professional, spectator sport of football was born in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century. It's a tale of testosterone-filled public schoolboys, eccentric mill-owners and bolshy miners, and of why we play football the way we do. Who invented heading? Why do we have an offside law? And why are foreigners so much better than us at the game we invented?Based on exhaustive research, Beastly Fury picks apart the complex processes which forged the modern game, turning accepted wisdom on its head. It's a story which is strangely familiar – of grasping players, corrupt clubs and autocratic officials. It's a tale of brutality, but at times too, of surprising artistry. Above all it's a story of how football, uniquely among the sports of that era, became what it is today – the people's game.
"There is no shortage of football stories. It is one of the subtle triumphs of Richard Sanders's book that he brings another tale gently into the light. Beastly Fury is a bright, breezy account of the beginnings of football. Sanders kicks off with a rush and his pace rarely slackens but something of substance emerges. The author has a keen eye for the personal anecdote whether it be the eccentric goalkeeper or the club secretary who is consumed by ambition. But the significance of Beastly Fury is that it lays bare just how football was born, nurtured and grew on the back of class movements... succint but acute... engaging but quietly serious" - Hugh MacDonald, Glasgow Herald
"Sanders's meticulous research is persuasive... [an] original thesis, written with style, wit and authority" - Simon Redfern, Independent on Sunday
"Well written and thoughtful... extremely good indeed" - Rod Liddle, Sunday Times
"Smooth, pacey prose... fascinating" - Alex Wade, Times Literary Supplement
"A bold and vivid history of football's disparate founding fathers" - Peter Watts, Time Out
"The football season hardly ends at all these days, but for literary (or at least literate) fans who miss it, there is Richard Sanders's Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth of British Football, which traces a game now bedevilled by preening, overpaid cheats back to a public-school culture of 'egregious selfishness', and preening, unpaid cheats. Britain's peculiar relationship to professional sport is acutely analysed by Sanders, who asks the winningly unpatriotic question 'if we invented football, how come we are so bad at it?', and finds the answer in our ignorance of foreign origins of the game, the cult of amateurishness, and a reluctance to accept the sport's (re-)democratization in the twentieth century." - David Horspool, Times Literary Supplement
"Both entertaining and informative, Beastly Fury is an impeccably researched book telling an enthralling story in an easily read fluent style" - Colin Shindler, author of Manchester United Ruined My Life
"Fascinating stuff" - Football Punk
"Shows that publishers continue to believe in a market for the thinking person's football book... a good historical read" - Matt Dickinson, The Times
"A fine book... well-researched and superbly written" - Soccer and Society
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