The vast majority of the early references to the game talk just of “ball play” or “playing at ball”. This strengthens the possibility that the games played at the time didn’t really include a ball being kicked.
An early reference to a ball game that was most likely football originates from 1280 at Ulgham, Northumberland, England: “Henry… while playing at ball.. ran against David”. Football was played in Ireland in 1308, with a reported reference to John McCrocan, an onlooker at a “football match-up” at Newcastle, County Down being accused of inadvertently wounding a player named William Bernard. Another reference to a football match-up comes in 1321 at Shouldham, Norfolk, England: “[d]uring the game at ball as he kicked the ball, a lay companion of his… ran against him and injured himself”.
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In 1314, Nicholas de Farndone, Lord Mayor of the City of London gave a declaration prohibiting football in the French utilized by the English high societies at the time. An interpretation peruses: “[f]orasmuch as there is extraordinary clamor in the city brought about by hustling over enormous foot balls in the fields of the general population from which numerous indecencies may emerge which God deny: we order and prohibit for the ruler, on agony of detainment, such game to be utilized in the city later on.” This is the soonest reference to football.
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