Filmed football

Sport No hold on...

Film No erm ...

Whatever. Tonight, ahead of the World Cup (because everything seems to be ahead of the World Cup at the moment) the Cornerhouse in Manchester had a programme of Mitchell and Kenyon's turn of the century footage of random football matches. The films were presented with live commentary from collection curator Vanessa Toulmin and Dave Russell, football expert from the University of Central Lancashire. Pianist Stephen Horne provided a improvised piano accompaniment.

Anyone who saw the Dan Cruckshank presented documentaries will know how mesmerising these films are, literally a chance to look into a past that was visually lost up top a few years ago. Most of the work offered the same routine -- a mass of crowd shots, followed by material of the game. I'm no fan of the 'beautiful' game, but watching these men of the past with their cigarettes and moutaches the size of their faces showing great stamina as they dashed around the dirtiest of pitches seemingly without a break was incredibly moving.

In our post modern world, something of the community has been lost as these films demonstrated. One of the teams had a dwarf as a mascot and his appearance is incongruous but the applause he receives as he comes on to the pitch seemingly just to walk around is warm and welcome. There was a routine to life and men knew were they would be on a Saturday afternoon, at the ground supporting the team. Most of these matches had crowds that todays club's can but dream of.

The commentary added colour to what in some cases is understandable blotchy footage. One ground had a cycle track around its edge because multi-purpose stadiums were already being built -- we were told that it was opened with a monkey on a bicycle riding around the edge. In another incident, a game had obviously become a bit personal because as one team left the pitch they realised that one of their number was lying unconcious having been punched by someone in the opposition.

Good times.

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