Scots invented beautiful game

Key quote

"The English are quick to claim they invented football. I think this book proves they didn't. Alas it is small consolation, considering we aren't in Germany to compete for the World Cup." - Alan Duncan of the Tartan Army

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SCOTLAND may not be at the World Cup, but the country can at least lay claim to having invented football, following the translation of a book written almost 400 years ago.

In 1633, more than 200 years before the Football Association was formed in England, David Wedderburn, a poet and teacher at Aberdeen Grammar School, described a match in his pocket-sized tome Vocabula.

While there are older descriptions of ball games involving kicking, historians say the Scottish manuscript, written in Latin, is the first to report on players passing the ball forward and attempting to score past a goalkeeper. A section of the book marks the kick-off: "Let's pick sides. Those who are on the outside, come over here. Kick off, so that we can begin the match ... Pass it here."

A 1711 edition of the manuscript was stored for years at the National Library of Scotland. But it was only recently translated for a World Cup exhibition at the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Hamburg, Germany. Historians say the translation has been a revelation.

Professor Wulf Koepke, of the Museum fur Volkerkunde, said: "The influence of this book is quite tremendous - it rewrites part of football history. Passing wasn't supposed to have happened until the late 1860s and yet this Aberdeen book is talking about it centuries before."

Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum, added: "The book is the first evidence we have come across of a game with goalkeepers and players passing the ball to score.

"The original football game that we know about through paintings and descriptions were like folk games - a bit of a free-for-all. But this Aberdeen game is different - the play is structured and it's a passing game with goalkeepers. The other interesting thing is that the FA was not formed until 1863. In the first FA rule book, there is no mention of goalkeepers and the game is based more on a rugby-type structure, where players could not pass the ball forward.

What is believed to be the oldest surviving football is also on display at the World Cup exhibition. The 500-year-old leather ball, found in the roof beams of the Queen's chamber in Stirling Castle in the 1970s, is believed to have belonged to Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots.

The two artefacts are accompanied by documents showing how Scottish empire builders helped to spread the game worldwide. Football was introduced in Brazil, for example, by Charles Miller in 1894, who was born in the country to a Scottish father. He helped to found the Paulista League in 1901.

Mr McBrearty said: "Scotland has a fantastic claim to have developed the modern game. The book is, frankly, an amazing discovery and hard to dispute."

Alan Duncan, president of the North-east chapter of the Tartan Army, said Aberdeen has a long tradition of football pioneers: "It is no surprise that this chap was a schoolmaster in Aberdeen. Football goes back a long way in the North-east - Aberdeen Football Club is over 100 years old now.

He added: "The English are quick to claim they invented football. I think this book proves they didn't. Alas it is small consolation, considering we aren't in Germany to compete for the World Cup."

The oldest antecedent of football has been claimed by several countries and cultures. The Chinese point to a game called cuju (kickball), created 4,700 years ago in which teams of soldiers would try to kick a leather ball through a hole in a gate.

And two 6,000-year-old stone balls unearthed in the United States are similar to ones used today by Native Americans in two football-like games.

The first inter-continental match involving kicking apparently took place in Greenland in 1586 between an English explorer, John Davis, and his crew and the inhabitants of Godthab.