Orwell and Football ⋆ An Old International

Orwell and Football

Most people will be familiar with Orwell’s famous statement about football being another means of war which he postulated in an article in The Tribune in 1945 after Dynamo Moscow came to the UK to play a number of friendly games. Orwell’s own experiences of the game are quite different, though they originate from a different period of his life but nonetheless are quite insightful.

The headline might mislead readers to think that now follows Orwell’s famous statement about football being nothing but war by other means. However correct this assessment may be, this text is looking at another quote about football which originates from his work Such, such were the joys which was published in 1947, three years before he died. In this biographical work he reflects on his time at a public school St. Cyprian’s which was located in Eastbourne, Sussex. it was opened in 1899 and closed 44 years later. The school ran according to the Zeitgeist of the late 19. century and therefore the ideal of Muscular Christianity was prevailing. One of the physical activities was football and Orwell describes his fortunes at it thus:

What counted was football, at which I was a funk. I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species to fighting. The lovers of football are large, boisterous, nobbly boys who are good at knocking down and trampling on slightly smaller boys.

For Orwell this was how life at school was meant to be: the strongest always prevail while the smaller and weaker ones had to adapt or perish. It is also how he saw society. The ruling classes made the rules, their rules and the rest had to get by.

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