It’s always interesting to see what terms or phrases people searched for when they stumbled across your site. OK, maybe its only interesting to a geek like me… ANYway, I was checking out the stats for the site and saw someone had searched for ‘why do they call the soccer field the pitch‘ The sad part was – I didn’t have a clue. Funny considering the name of this site. So I set out to find an answer.
It wasn’t easy. I tried all sorts of search terms and came up empty. My Google-foo was failing me! Then when all seemed lost, I finally found a site with the full story (bits and pieces of which I had seen elsewhere, but not cohesive enough to really know why)
The oldest sense of pitch that’s immediately relevant is that of thrusting a stake or pole into the ground (as in pitching a tent). The sense of a playing field comes via that, originally from cricket. The act of setting up the playing area by knocking the two sets of stumps into the ground at the ends of the wicket was called pitching the stumps from the end of the seventeenth century on. However, it wasn’t until the 1870s that the term was turned into a noun to describe the playing area and it was extended to football only about 1900-surprisingly late in both cases.
Even more interesting was this tidbit I found in my Google travels about the origins of soccer itself and the early ‘pitches’. While British football was created as a war game in the 8th Century, the Japanese were playing a form of football called Kemari around 1004 B.C. on fields of play:
Kemari, the Japanese version of "Football", is perhaps one of the most different forms of the sport, in comparison to modern football. Kemari was a game of "keep it up", much like modern hacky sacks, although used with a larger ball that was stuffed with saw dust. This version involves a "pitch", or the field, designated by the selection of four trees, the cherry, maple, pine and willow. Many great houses in Japan would grow trees to have a permanent pitch, or field, established.
Now there’s some trivia for you to share at you’re child’s next soccer match! Just don’t get any wild ideas about planting a cherry tree in place of a corner flag!