There are a lot of countries renowned for their zealous sports fandoms; however, this hasn’t always been the case. In order to get where they are now, various sports had to evolve and fight for their status in society. This involved the formation of early organizations, governing bodies and teams. So, here are several things you should know about the early history of four famous sporting countries.
Unlike in many other colonial nations, sports like soccer, cricket and rugby never really took off in the States. In the USA, the sport had the role of a common national denominator. It was not an expression of barbarian temperament but a social safety valve that replaced the old western frontier. Even though puritans in the early settlements disliked the idea of sports (as a part of the cultural heritage of their old homeland that they’ve left behind), it still managed to grow and prosper.
As for the official timeline of sports in the USA, there are several important dates. The first collegiate baseball game was played in 1859, while the first college football game took place in 1869. It wasn’t until several years later (in 1871 to be more precise) that the first professional baseball league was formed. While basketball is huge in present-day USA, not a lot of people know that this country is its place of origin. It was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891. The idea behind it was to create a sport that can be played indoors so that the athletes can stay in shape even during winter months.
On the list of sporting nations, Australia takes the first place. This position, however, is a result of a careful equation, that takes into consideration the number of medals held in various disciplines by each nation. Later on, this number is divided by population in millions (in order not to put smaller nations at a huge disadvantage). Still, how did the status of Australian sport get so strong? Australia, as we know it, has a lot of stronger colonial heritage (in terms of favorite sports) than the above-discussed US. So, what is it that puts Australia ahead?
The first Australian Rules match between two grammar schools was played in 1858 (around the same time as the college competitions started in the USA, as well). The Victorian Football Association was formed in 1877, which is one of the most important early dates in the history of the sport on this continent. Australia is, as we all know it, home of one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. What a lot of people don’t know is the fact that the first Australian Open Tennis Championship was held as early as 1805.
3. New Zealand
Like some of the above-listed countries, New Zealand can trace its early sporting events all the way to the late 1800s. Right off the bat, it started achieving international success, which almost ensured the immediate interest of the public. A long-distance walker Joe Scott won many races in Britain, while the racehorse Carbine won the Melbourne Cup in 1890. As far as the national sports and teams, in 1888-1889, the New Zealand Native rugby team visited Britain. This not only marked a major sporting success but also increased Europe’s interest in Maori culture.
New Zealand is also renowned for its many golf courses, some of which were founded in the early 1870s. In fact, numerous luxury golf resorts are the main reasons why so many people would choose a destination in New Zealand for their holiday. The majority of these courses, however, can trace their origin in the 19th century. As such, they’re an integral part of New Zealand’s sports history.
4. Great Britain
During the middle ages, different regions had a different approach to sports. One of the most peculiar cases can probably be seen in the example of medieval England. Namely, the English crown prohibited all sports except for the archery, which they even went as far as to make mandatory (by law). What this resulted in is a high population of English longbowmen which served as an unparalleled military force for the huge part of the middle ages. Bizarrely enough, this law is (technically), still in effect. From that point on, the spirit of sportsmanship in the UK has survived until this day.
Football (soccer) is huge in the UK (as well as the rest of mainland Europe, Latin America and… well, most of the world, actually). All up until the 80s and 90s, this was followed by a huge hooligan problem. Fortunately, the problem is since successfully resolved (even though minor incidents may still resurface, from time to time). In other words, nowadays, a football game in the UK can be seen as a family-friendly event.
As you can see, while some countries have a sporting tradition centuries-(some even thousands)-years-old, there’s a huge distinction to be made here. The majority of regulated sports, with modern rules and a form that they are practiced today, usually have a root in the second half of the 19th century. Still, sports are constantly evolving and new rules, regulations and safety measures are being implemented almost on a yearly basis.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.