Colonial powers through the ages have been masters of appropriating the native cultures of foreign lands, waiting a few decades or centuries before casually passing them off as their own creations.
Few are better at this than European nations, with the English laying claim to tea and curry that they imported from Asia, and the French taking credit for wine that was first developed in the Caucasus Mountains.
So often, western countries like to bestow the moniker of “Home of …” on themselves. This is no different in sport, with certain countries often claiming to have invented everything from football to tennis to sportsmanship.
Here is the cold hard truth about which ancient civilisations created the sporting pastimes that distract the modern populations of today.
Football – Originally a Chinese Pastime
Yes, that’s right, football was not born in the UK, with little Jim and John blowing up a pig’s bladder and charging after it on the cobbles of London town.
Head to FIFA’s official website no less and the truth will out before your very eyes, as it becomes clear that football’s first incarnation was sparked into life in China during the Han Dynasty. That is, until its popularity waned during the Ming Dynasty, whose rulers perhaps foresaw that the game would descend into stadiums charging five quid for offal and sawdust pies.
Boxing – A Sport That Has Come Full Circle
There were some raised eyebrows when current heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua fought Andy Ruiz in the Saudi Arabian desert, but people should have realised that pugilism – far from abandoning its supposed spiritual home in the UK – was in fact going back to its true roots; to Ancient Mesopotamia to be precise.
This is because the very first evidence of a civilisation enjoying a spot of organised fisticuffs was the Sumerian civilisation, whose people preferred to keep their fights raw, choosing to go bare knuckle. Although the modern prize fighting and Queensbury rules – which people bet on today as far afield as Las Vegas – were founded in the UK, the original sport most certainly came from overseas.
Wrestling – From Roman Warriors to American Hype
It’s hard to ascertain exactly which civilisation first came up with the idea of two men tussling till one or the other taps out, but what is for sure is that wrestling was not born in the US. Especially not when Vince McMahon decided matches should be scripted and fuelled by men screaming into microphones.
The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and even the French were some of the earliest adopters of the sport, until of course the Romans got in on the act, creating rules, as was their want. Who knows whether Roman emperors would have given the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Heartbreak Kid Shaun Michaels a thumbs up or a thumbs down, as the ring announcer bellowed “Are you not entertained?”
Tennis – Is Wimbledon French?
Of course, there are some cases of competing colonial powers ransacking each other’s sporting heritage in a bid to claim superiority.
Such was the case with tennis which, despite starting its not-so-humble beginnings in France, was treated to a forced adoption by the English. They thought that the sport went best with strawberries that they’d also acquired from France, along with a generous dollop of double cream. And thus, the Wimbledon tradition was born.