The game of the Eton elite

November 20, 2012

Eton, Britain

By Eddie Keogh

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could step back in time? I know I never will but occasionally you come across a scene that has barely changed for hundreds of years. This was certainly the case when I visited Eton College this week to photograph the annual Eton Wall Game between The Collegers (scholarship holders) and The Oppidans (the fee paying pupils).

Sport doesn’t get more elite than this. It’s only played once a year, there is only one pitch of its kind in the world and you need to be a pupil at Eton College, one of the most exclusive public schools in the world. Bear in mind that this school has produced 19 British prime ministers including the present one, David Cameron. It’s highly possible that one of the boys in these pictures will enter Downing Street as Prime Minister one day.

The game has a long history here with the first recorded game taking place in 1766. It encompasses elements from both soccer and rugby, but the unusual bit is that it’s all played up against a brick wall 110 meters (yards) long and a pitch that is only 5 meters wide.

I won’t attempt to explain the myriad of rules, needless to say you need to go to a good school to understand them all. Understanding Harry Potter’s game of Quidditch is easier.

Prince Harry most famously played the game back in 2002, I imagine I would have been rubbing shoulders with a few more photographers there that day.

Now, wouldn’t it be lovely if we could step forward in time. Imagine; the game’s popularity has grown around the country. It’s now being shown live on Sky Sports and this Sunday’s headline fixture is Eton v Millwall. Maybe that’s just one wall too far.

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