By Cristian Nunez
One can only imagine what goes on behind closed doors at exclusive private schools like Eton College; however, there are some the public can gawk at. One such tradition, or sport I should say, played exclusively at Eton College called the Eton Wall Game would leave most scratching their heads.
In order to begin to get a handle on this game, try to imagine a mixture of rugby and football. Traditionally, the game is played on a strip of field five meters wide and 100 meters long called the furrow. The furrow runs alongside a slightly curved brick wall not surprisingly referred to as, wait for it…the Wall, which was built in 1717.
The object of the game is to get a football, or soccer ball, to the opponent’s end of the furrow. There are a couple of ways to score points on your opponent. At the far ends of the furrow there are designated regions referred to as “calx.” If a player can lift the ball off the ground while holding it against the wall, and a teammate is able to touch it and yell “Got it!” then one point or “shy” can be scored.
Once this scoring play has occurred, the scoring team is allowed to throw the ball at a “goal” worth nine points-a garden door at one end and a tree at the other. However, if a player is able to kick the ball out in the calx and hit the target, the scoring team can earn five points.
Sounds simple enough, right? All you have to do is get the ball to the opposite end of the furrow. Not so fast there, partner! The opposing teams have to move the ball in a rugby-like scrum otherwise referred to as a “bully” that usually crabs up and down the wall. Just imagine two groups of guys interlocking heads and pushing and shoving one another on opposite sides, looking something like a huge organized brawl.
Teams have been known to attempt to use diagonal—like phalanx formations in order to pry the opposing team from the wall, thus freeing room for the ball to be advanced upfield. Remember that the scrum is moving up and down the field against an unforgiving brick wall. Skin on elbows, legs and knees is typically sacrificed to the edifice.
The game is composed of two thirty minute halves; it is hard to imagine anyone ready to play for longer after taking a severe beating in the scrum. Subsequently, scoring is quite a rare occurrence. The last goal that was scored—i.e. a ball being successfully thrown at one of the designated targets-was in 1903. The St. Andrews match of 2009 marked the 100th consecutive 0-0 game.
In all fairness, the rarity of scoring games is also due to the fact that it is only played on certain holidays and designated days throughout the year. The most important match of the year is held on St. Andrew’s Day. The game is typically organized by all boys; however, there have been two matches played by all women. So if you’re looking for a little entertainment, check out the Eton Wall Game on YouTube.