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Sorry England, Guarani Natives Of Paraguay Say They Invented Soccer

Paraguay's Ministry of Culture says the real birthplace of the game the English named football, and gave rules to, was not in fact England. The Jesuits may have the proof.

The universal game in Asuncion
The universal game in Asuncion
Jiuletta Roffo

ASUNCION — Sports fans around the world have long believed that the game of soccer was born in England, where its rules were set down in 1863.

But now the government of Paraguay insists that the Guaraní, the natives from the "southern-cone" region of South America, were kicking a ball around much earlier. This was documented in the 18th century by the Jesuits working here to convert the natives to Catholicism, the religion of the alternately civilizing and genocidal European conquerors.

Paraguay's Ministry of Culture has launched a short documentary called The Guaraní Invented Football, to supposedly set the record straight. Its initiative followed the publication in the Vatican's official gazette of an observation written by 18th century Jesuits on how the Guaraní made a kind of football using wet sand wrapped in layers of a tree sap not dissimilar to rubber, which was then inflated.

The Guaraní, who inhabited territories that spanned across Paraguay, as well as parts of present-day Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia were observed kicking that durable ball around on Sundays, for example, after attending mass. The aim of their game was not, however, to score goals, but to prevent the ball from touching the ground. The side that tired first lost, and a game could last until sunset, as chroniclers observed in 1775 and 1777. Crowds of fans watched and there was reportedly some betting.

The Jesuits wrote in their "cartas anuas," the annual reports to the Pope, of the Guaraní"s dexterity with this type of football, called Mangai in the first dictionary of the Guaraní language. The name came from the tree whose sap was used to make the ball.

[rebelmouse-image 27088224 alt="""" original_size="500x331" expand=1]Guaraní of today Photo: Percursodacultura

A councillor of the Guaraní settlement in San Ignacio Guazú in Paraguay, Máximo Génez, has his suspicions of what happened. "We think the English could have had the idea for football after seeing the Guaraní taken to Spain by the Jesuits, perhaps when they were showing their game to royalty before visiting Englishmen." Génez says many in his community want San Ignacio to be known as the birthplace of football.

Ball playing in the Americas was not confined to the Guaraní of course. The Maya and the Aztecs of Mexico had their famous ball game where a ball had to be sent through a loop using knees, hips and elbows. The losers faced the prospect of being sacrificed to the gods. Something to bear in mind perhaps for football hooligans.

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War In Ukraine, Day 226: 'Armageddon,' 'Preemptive Strikes'  — A New Spiral Of Nuclear Warnings

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” U.S. President Joe Biden declared.

U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 6

In less than 24 hours, new warnings and threats have heated up around the use of nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Joe Biden said during a Democratic fundraiser in New York Thursday evening that Vladimir Putin’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons must be taken very seriously.

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“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” Biden said. “He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological and chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming. I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily [use] tactical nuclear weapons and not end up with Armageddon.”

Meanwhile, the Russian government accused Volodymyr Zelensky of trying to provoke a nuclear war after his video comments at an event at the Lowy Institute in Australia. The Ukrainian president said he believed in the need for pre-emptive strikes and stated that NATO should make it impossible for Russia to use nuclear weapons. “We need pre-emptive strikes, so that they’ll know what will happen to them if they use nukes, and not the other way around,” Zelensky said via video link. “Don’t wait for Russia’s nuclear strikes, and then say, ‘Oh, since you did this, take that from us!’”

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