Pele displays first rules of soccer

Players, managers and fans come to blows over them. Pundits' livelihoods depend on scrutinizing them. And the world is constantly trying to change them.

updated: November 10, 2007 12:14 IST
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Sheffield, England:

Players, managers and fans come to blows over them. Pundits' livelihoods depend on scrutinizing them. And the world is constantly trying to change them.

The rules and regulations governing soccer fill reams of paper, but 150 years ago when the game's pioneers codified the first laws in the northern English steel city of Sheffield there were just 11.

On Thursday, the original faded documents went on display at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium for the first time in 40 years, unveiled by the most celebrated player in history - Pele.

"Football in my life owes a lot to this," the Brazil great said.

The rules were written by two passionate cricketers, William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick, who in October 1857 formed the world's first soccer club, Sheffield FC.

Before the pioneers put pen to paper, the game was played throughout Britain with different rules, with some games having 500 players and often ending in violence.

But Prest and Creswick deemed that kickoff must take place from the center of the pitch, and instigated the throw-in.

"There are artifacts here that certainly outdate any other football memorabilia in the world," Sheffield FC chairman Richard Timms said on unveiling the display.

These days, the little-known amateur side which simply calls itself "The Club" plays eight divisions below the Premier League and celebrated its 150th anniversary last month with a church service and dinner attended by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Late Thursday, it lost 5-2 to Italian under-19 champion Inter Milan in a friendly at Bramall Lane.

Pele deems it unfair that when an attacking team is denied a goalscoring opportunity, the defending team can then scramble players back to block the free kick.

"The forward gets the ball from the midfield, dribbles for one-two or passes three or four players but when you get close to the goal, the last defender makes a foul," the former striker said.

"After you have passed all the players, one guy makes a foul and then you have the whole team in the wall against you again. It is not fair.

"It is one rule I don't understand, as a forward, why they didn't ban."

Pele also advocates using video technology.

Another tribute he unveiled on Thursday inside the "Legends of the Lane" museum was dedicated to black players and featured an honor to former Real Madrid and Manchester United player Laurie Cunninghan - the first to play in an England shirt.

"When I started in the 1958 there were no black players in any other team apart from Brazil," Pele said. "Today you see black players all over the world."

He sees the scourge of racism in the game now as more politically motivated.

"We have some problems today, but I think we don't have an exact racism problem," he said. "We have a political problem, this is a problem in society.

"The fans fight between themselves not because of color or religion. This is society today, this is the big problem in the world. We need love."

Pele was keen to see some new rules, calling on FIFA to ban defensive walls close to goal.