The dispute, strangely, was not over the use of the hand, but over hacking - that is, whether kicking opponents in the shins should be allowed. F.W. Campbell of Blackheath was very much in favour. 'If you do away with [hacking],' he said, 'you will do away with all the courage and pluck of the game, and I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice.' Sport, he appears to have felt, was about pain, brutality and manliness; without that, if it actually came down to skill, any old foreigner might be able to win.
Some context is needed. The dispute in question was over the initial rules in the game of soccer... namely, how to use the offside rule. However, as Wilson found peculiar, the real argument ended up being whether or not kicking other players should be allowed.
This sounds silly now, especially considering this event occurred roughly in 1860 or 1870... but is it really?
Kicking seems really petulant, but in a sport where the foot is the weapon of choice, kicking would've been considered the logical method of physical play. The NFL has the tackle, as wrapping up your arms around the ball carrier is allowed... the NHL has the armless body-check... NBA has it's pick... so, soccer would've had it's kick.
What reason was there for physicality in soccer? Well, let's return to Mr. Blackheath and requote:
'you will do away with all the courage and pluck of the game, and I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice.'
So the pussies can't win... and the French were the ultimate pussies in 19th century England. The more things change...
So, as the thoughts of the time put it, anyone can learn to kick a ball, but we can separate the real men (the winners) from the pussies (the losers) via physical dominance manifested in the form of kicking a dude.
Fastforward a century and a half...
We live in a sporting society and in this society various masculine traits centered around a tolerance for pain and a penchant to inflict it are often coveted above skill and and ingenuity. It's better to physically batter your opponent into submission.
Case in point, the NHL playoffs... whereas, in the regular season, a premium is placed on calling relatively minor infractions and settling games with a pseudo-skills competition, the playoffs are another beast... the physicality is ratcheted up to 11 while the penalties drop by a similar margin.
It becomes more war of attrition... gameplans revolve around physically destroying the competition and grinding out a championship. Skill is a necessity... you won't win without the skill, but you won't win without your share of physical muck and grinders.
In reality, professional team sport is a mix of a physical grind and a skills show... to assume it is one way or the other is negligent.
Soccer found it's own ways to add physicality to the game regardless of kicking. Watch how slide tackles are followed through in professional matches, where elbows go during headers and basically everything that occurs during corner kicks... which are, as in the NHL, NFL, etc., let go in honor of fairness... the fairness of allowing each team to bend the rules and hurt each other as much as possible.
All ending in a circle. People are as they were. The English placed importance on physical brutality in sport a hundred-fifty years ago... well, they still do now. Surprise, surprise.
But that, in itself is unique: when facing attempted revolution in the particular game... an attempted way of modifying the thinking approaching this game, we find ways to circle back around and make sure that even though we left point A, we can still find our way back to it shortly after.
If there's a will, there's a way.
And nothings better than seeing some pussy get what's coming to him.