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The book argues that established European football histories do not correspond with the facts. Football, as played by the "masses" previous to the public school codes is almost always portrayed as wild and quite barbaric, but Harvey shows evidence suggesting this view to be a serious over-simplification. This book provides a very detailed picture of the European football played outside the confines of the public schools, revealing a culture that was every bit as sophisticated as that found within their prestigious walls. Indeed, the administrative body created by public schoolboys, the FA, rapidly collapsed and by 1867, it was the intervention of working class representatives from Sheffield who saved European football.

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