Today marks the ninety fifth anniversary of the first live radio commentary of a soccer match. It was played between Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury in London, England.
The commentator was Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Blythe Thornhill Wakelam, usually known as Teddy Wakelam, who was an acknowledged expert at football, having captained the Harlequins.
Now, some of you will know that the Harlequins actually play a different kind of football, namely rugby football. And so thus began the long tradition of sports commentators being nearly as ignorantly incompetent as referees.
(Though I would imagine that, given that he really started something on that day ninety-five years ago, Wakelam must have been rather a good commentator. Though admittedly there was that incident where he set fire to his notes when covering the tennis...)
Anyway, to assist the radio listener to imagine what was happening on the pitch (the BBC obviously didn't have much faith in commentators, either) an illustration showing a football pitch divided into segments was published in the radio listings publication, The Radio Times, and while Teddy Wakelam was doing his commentary the voice of Cecil Arthur Lewis in the background could be heard calling numbers to let people know where play was happening.
This is said to be the origin of the expression back to square one, though this seems unlikely as square one was at one of the corners of the pitch, and a football game usually begins in the middle.
Teddy Wakelam also commentated on rugby, cricket, and boxing. He wrote a newspaper column and some books, too.
I've not heard anyone say he was a literary genius, or a master of the spoken word.
But he really did start something.
Word To Use Today: soccer. This word is short for association, there being a craze at Oxford University in the late 1800s for using slang consisting of the (usually) first syllable of a word plus -er. Soccer was assoccer to begin with. Rugby football is still sometimes called rugger. The Latin word associare means to unite.
Soccer is played under the rules of the Football Association, as opposed to rugger, the rules of which were made up at Rugby School.