In South Africa, rugby and soccer are the two most passionately followed sports, yet many people are actually unaware that initially these sports, according to legend, were once one and the same.
Here’s how the legend goes: During the 10th century in England, the beginning of a ball sport began to emerge. Groups of people would participate in games that involved kicking and throwing an inflated pig’s bladder through the streets and squares. Villagers would use any means to get the ball across the “goal” in order to claim victory for their community.
During the 12th and 13th century; however, these ball games were brought to a halt by ruling authorities. Not due to the violence and destruction of property that these games incited as one may presume, but rather because these games were a distraction from military training!
It was only in the late 1700’s that these ball games were reintroduced at schools – and for the first time a rule was introduced – you couldn’t run with the ball.
According to this legend, in 1823 a young and enthusiastic player named William Webb Ellis, ran with the ball during a game being played at Rugby School, and the crowd loved the idea! After having broken the only rule of ball sport, there was much debate surrounding whether this should or shouldn’t be allowed.
It was only in 1863, a good 40 years later, that the “ball sport” was divided into two official sports – soccer and rugby.
While the story of William Webb Ellis has not been conclusively proven, in 1987 the Rugby World Cup trophy was named the William Webb Ellis Cup and a statue of Webb Ellis was erected outside Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. Clearly someone believes the legend!