David Beckham did not invent soccer in Vancouver, Canada

David Beckham, Vancouver WhitecapsIn Canada this week, Vancouver finally welcomes the Soccer Messiah, aka David Beckham, for a rearranged game against the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL tomorrow night tonight. As the always thoughtful Global Game blog asserts, though, his arrival is more interesting as it “raises more interest in pre-existing soccer traditions than in the soccer actually being played”.

According to Kendall Blanchard in The Anthropology of Sport: An Introduction (Bergin Garvey/Greenwood, 1995), akraurak is contested between goals that are “markings in the snow at unspecified distances from each other. Teams kick the ball up and down the field, the object being to drive it across the goal line of an opponent. The game is played predominantly in the spring and summer months, and everyone, regardless of sex or age, may participate” (150).

As Nuttall also writes, Inuit from Greenland and across the Arctic see in aurora borealis, the northern lights, the souls of ancestors. They call these heavenly apparitions arsarnerit, or “the football players.”

Among First Nations, who are distinct from Inuit and another Canadian indigeneous group, the Métis, it is harder to identify a precursor to modern football. Traditions of leisure and games, however, form part of the cyclical life pattern characteristic of aboriginal culture. Recurring competitions such as the Arctic Games and North American Indigenous Games feature traditional sports as well as soccer. Started in 1990, the latter includes more than 9,000 participants in sport and cultural events.

Go and read the rest of the entry to learn more.

3 thoughts on “David Beckham did not invent soccer in Vancouver, Canada

  1. John Turnbull

    Thanks very much for the link, Thomas. Actually, the two sides are engaged in their tilt as I type. Presumably Beckham has completed his contractually stipulated 45 minutes, and Steve McClaren is free to cruise Kitsilano for his favorite vegan fare. Cheers.

  2. Thomas Dunmore

    You’re more than welcome for the link, John, and thanks for the subtle correction on when the game’s actually being played.

  3. Antonio G

    Hmmm. Interesting article, but I think it oversells football’s influence in those communities a bit.

    Potlatches – to be clear – were also about wealth and power although not in the way westerners typically understand these terms. These were events where various rich folks competed to give away as many valuable items as they could – just to prove how wealthy and powerful they were. It was about accumulating favours by making others obligated to you through gift-giving. If you think of the way the word “arigato” (thank you) in Japanese encompasses feelings of irritation at having incurred an obligation, you start to understand some of the subtlties at play here.

    Anyways, if football was used as a cover for First Nations to congregate, that says more about the game’s dominance among white British Columbians than about its inherent attractiveness to First Nations. Outside BC (and within it, I would have thought), First Nations’ main sporting passion is ice hockey followed – in eastern Canada, at least – by lacrosse. Football would be a telescope-distance third, if that.