the study of all things kicker related

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kicking Under The Northern Lights

Several excerpts regarding kicking in the northern reaches of the Americas...

As they did in parts of Africa and Latin America, British miners established football in British Columbia three decades after the province joined the Confederation of Canada in 1871. The sport helped unite mining communities such as Nanaimo, Cumberland and Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. But ball games had indigenous roots in the northern tier, as they did in Mesoamerica. Mark Nuttall, a University of Alberta anthropologist, has detailed European explorers’ and researchers’ intersections with football-playing Inuit. “In The Central Eskimo,” Nuttall writes, “Franz Boas described ball games (and recorded songs about ball games, including football) played by the Inuit of southern Baffin Island in the Eastern Canadian Arctic in the 1880s.” The ball, according to Boas, consisted of moss-stuffed sealskin. Boas goes on to describe a juggling game, seemingly a variant of the Inuit game of akraurak or aqijut, played on Ulukhaktok, also known as Holman Island, in the Northwest Territories.
From the Games Museum:
Many ball games, for partners or as multi-player circle games, are played by the Inuit. On Holman Island as elsewhere, the Inuit have long played a type of football known as Akraurak or Aqijut which is mentioned in some of their myths. (F.H. Eger, Eskimo Inuit Games, Vancouver: X-Press, 3 edition, page 58). The football is made of hide, stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, or whalebones. Two lines of players face each other, some distance apart. The ball is kicked between the lines until it passes through one line of players. Then all players rush to kick the ball into their opponent's goal.
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”. 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 M├ętis, 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.

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