A Travellerspoint blog

Who Has the Right to Call it Football?

Who Has the Right to Call it Football?

I grew up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the years when today's football heroes the Steelers were the goats of the beloved game. I am now the tender age of sixty four. The Steelers of my era lost more games than they won, but they established a tone that still defines their teams of this era -- the blood and-guts, hard-nosed style of Pittsburgh's Team. In the '50s, the Steelers were 54-63-3 under four different coaches and finished with more wins while lossing only twice. The Steelers owned by Art Rooney were then called the Pirates.The Steelers of the early 1960s were not much better if at all; however, we still loved them and derived great joy from following our anti-heroes. They played their games in Pitt Stadium and Forbes Field. The Steelers made the playoffs for the first time in 1947, tying for first place in the division at 8–4 with the Philadelphia Eagles. This forced a tie-breaking playoff game at Forbes Field, which the Steelers lost 21–0. That would be Pittsburgh's only playoff game for the next 25 years; they did qualify for a "Playoff Bowl" in 1962 as the second-best team in their conference, but this was not considered an official playoff.

I was blessed in those years to live near Pitt Stadium and Forbes Field. I enjoyed watching the Pirates, Steelers, and Panthers compete and even saw the last game of the 1960 baseball World Series. It was the first time that the Pirates brought a championship to the city. Bill Mazeroski became a hero to sports fans everywhere.

It is now forty six years since I left the steel city in 1966. The team currently belongs to the North Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL)/ The Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC. Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowl titles (six), won more AFC Championship Games (eight) and played in (fifteen) and hosted more (eleven) conference championship games than any other AFC or NFC team. The Steelers share the record for most Super Bowl appearances with the Dallas Cowboys (eight). The Steelers won their most recent championship, Super Bowl XLIII, on February 1, 2009. Yes, things have certainly changed since my era.

I still follow my beloved Steelers in my new home of Haifa Israel. I watched their last Super-bowl appearance from 6,000 miles away in Israel. The game was broadcast on several networks in the Middle East. I watched it through the METV while sipping a beer at a local pub. I was stunned to listen to the game both in English and in Hebrew simultaneously. All the other patrons were non-Americans, but many of them understood the rules of the game and helped me cheer for my favorite team. Still, there were tears in my beer when the game was over. The Steelers lost a heart breaker to the Packers.

The national sport of Israel is soccer. In Hebrew it is called football. My friends and I joke a lot as to which country has a right to call its national sport football. I enjoyed a certain glow from the sense of solidarity from sharing my football ardor with my new Israeli neighbors. It has indeed become a small world since my days growing up in the steel city. One of my toughest challenges in life is adjusting to the world of modern mass communications, however when it comes to the Super-bowl- thank goodness for satellite television.

The contemporary history of the world's favourite game spans close to one hundred and fifty years. It all began in 1863 in England, when rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association in England was formed - becoming the sport's first governing body.

Both codes stemmed from a common root and both have a long and intricately branched ancestral tree. A search down the centuries reveals at least half a dozen different games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back. Nevertheless, the fact remains that people have enjoyed kicking a ball about for thousands of years and there is absolutely no reason to consider it an aberration of the more 'natural' form of playing a ball with the hands.

On the contrary, apart from the need to employ the legs and feet in tough tussles for the ball, often without any laws for protection, it was recognized right at the outset that the art of controlling the ball with the feet was not easy and, as such, required no small measure of skill. The very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China

American football was started in 1879 with rules instituted by Walter Camp, player and coach at Yale University.

Walter Camp was born April 17, 1859, in New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Yale from 1876 to 1882, where he studied medicine and business. Walter Camp was an author, athletic director, chairman of the board of the New Haven Clock Company, and director of the Peck Brothers Company. He was general athletic director and head advisory football coach at Yale University from 1888-1914, and chairman of the Yale football committee from 1888-1912. Camp played football at Yale and helped evolve the rules of the game away from Rugby and Soccer rules into the rules of American Football as we know them today.

The NFL, or the National Football League, was formed in 1920. The popularity of college football grew as it became the dominant version of the sport in the United States for the first half of the 20th century. Bowl games, a college football tradition, attracted a national audience for college teams. Boosted by fierce rivalries, college football still holds widespread appeal in the United States. The Super Bowl is one of the most widely watched sporting events in the world including my new home in Israel.

While Israel is technically part of Asia, the sporting landscape makes the tiny nation more in line with the European continent. Soccer rules in Israel, as it does in the rest of the non-American world, and while the country has its own hierarchy of professional leagues, Israeli teams often face European competition in international matches through UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). In Hebrew the term for soccer is football. It is the national sport of Israel and most of this region. I have learned the rules of the game as part of my new life and enjoy watching and playing somewhat. It is still not the same to me as the American gridiron.
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. At the turn of the 21st century, the game was played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field of grass or green artificial turf, with a goal in the middle of each of the short ends. The object of the game is to score by driving the ball into the opposing goal.

In general play, the goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms (unless the ball is carried out of play, where the field players are required to re-start by a throw-in of the game ball), while the field players typically use their feet to kick the ball, occasionally using other parts of their legs, their torso or head. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time and/or a penalty shootout, depending on the format of the competition. The Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by the Football Association in 1863 and have evolved since then. Association football is governed internationally by FIFA—Fédération Internationale de Football Association(English: International Federation of Association Football) — which organises the FIFA World Cup every four years.

The structure of Israeli soccer, which is governed by the Israeli Football Association, is similar to that of English soccer and a number of other continental soccer federations. The best teams play in Ligat Ha'al, the Premier League; second tier teams play in Liga Leumit, or the National League; and third tier teams play in Liga Artzit, or the Nationwide League.


Each of these leagues has twelve teams. Big cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa are typically represented by at least one or two teams in the Premier League, and teams from smaller cities populate the other leagues. At the end of the season, the teams in each league with the two worst records are relegated to a lower league, and the two best teams move up a league.

Soccer has been a part of Israeli culture already before the modern state existed. Prior to 1948, men and women making aliyah from Europe founded social movements that they hoped would guide the cultural and political development of the future state. These movements were all encompassing--creating their own settlements, building their own infrastructure, establishing societal norms, and even fielding their own soccer teams. Two of the most prominent movements--the right-wing Revisionist Zionist Movement (Beitar) and left-wing Workers' Federation (Hapoel)--survive today on Israeli soccer fields.

Israelis of all ages, backgrounds and both genders love the game. Many Israeli youngsters dream of being future stars of the sport. Israeli football stars are indeed heroes to the citizens of this great state. The malls are adorned with shops that specialize in "football" equipment and memorabilia.

That brings us to the question of 'Who has the right to call it football?'. I have to lean toward soccer which involves a far greater use of the foot than the American genre of the game. Nonetheless, I still prefer the American version of the game and of course the greatest heroes of the game - the mighty Steelers.

Posted by eshugerman 12:55 Archived in Israel Tagged football soccer super haifa pittsburgh bowl steelers

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login