Kicking Off In Dorset

Kicking Off In Dorset

With the much anticipated football World Cup kicking off, here is a brief history of the beautiful game in Dorset.


Our lovely county has scarcely been considered synonymous with football, and it’s football teams can hardly be compared to the likes of Manchester or Liverpool. However, with rise of the mighty Cherries to the Premiership League, Bournemouth is now firmly on the map. Although it is only in recent years we have been playing with the ‘big boys’, football in Dorset has been played for many centuries.

Dorsetarians in Roman occupied areas of the county might have been the forerunners of football players in Britain. A version of the game called ‘harpastum’ is recorded as being played back in 43 AD. Although originally used as part of military training it is thought from this point, its recreational merit was explored.

It is not until well over a thousand years later in the 13th century that we hear of football in the county again. It appeared that different parts of the county had developed their own versions of the game known as ‘mob’ or ‘folk’ football. One well known custom was the Shrove Tuesday ‘kicking the ball’ in Corfe Castle some 700 years ago in which the quarrymen of the Purbecks partook. However, the apparent ceremonial shuffling of the ball about does not sound quite as an exciting as an F.A cup final. A version of the game is also referred to in Blandford during the Middle Ages.

A more recent (and more gruesome) mention of the game is in the 17th century in the county town, Dorchester when a Catholic chaplain was executed and the Puritans enjoyed a game of footer with his head.

In reality, football as we know it today came into effect in the Victorian era and the F.A was formed in 1863, although rulings, and the competition took a few more years to finalise. Gillingham claims to be the oldest club in the county having formed in 1878 and Wimborne Town FC just after in 1879. Blandford, Portland and Sturminster Newton also claim to have been playing at this time.

There is some controversy over the oldest club due the reorganisation of the county in 1974 which led to Bournemouth FC (The Poppies) entering Dorset, who can trace their club a back to 1875. Their more famous neighbour, AFC Bournemouth (The Cherries), did not form until 1899 and were originally known as Boscombe, then Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic Football Club (the longest name in the league for many years) before they began to flourish and settled on a more catchy name.

Some of the lesser known clubs have also had a brush with top league football including Weymouth who have made the 3rd and 4th round of the FA Cup (1949 & 1962) losing to Man U and Preston. Poole Town also reached the 3rd round of the Cup in 1927 only to be defeated by Everton.

Amazingly little Wimborne Town has played at Wembley when they reached the final of the F.A vase beating a Yorkshire team 5-3. Some 7,500 Wimborne locals travelled up for the match, (almost half the town), demonstrating how uniting football can be.

The recent successes of AFC Bournemouth may now somewhat overshadow the counties small victories but it goes to show what can come from humble beginnings with the most recent highlight being 21 year old Luke Cook of the club making the England Squad for this World Cup!

Go on The Three Lions!

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