WITH global football shut down these days, fans desperate for a fix of the game may find if from a rather unlikely source : The creator of Downtown Abbey.

Julian Fellowes has created and co-written THE ENGLISH GAME, a six-part look at the original of a onetime British gentleman's game that has become the most popular sport in the world. The series begins Friday on Netflix, reported The Indian Express.

''There are certain sports that  cut right through society and appeal to people at every level. And that seems to me to be a wholly good thing,'' Fellowes said of his new project.

The English Game is set in 1879 and focuses on the first full-time professional players and how they infused football with new tactics and strategies. But there's also plenty of drama off the field, especially the parts about the rise of both the working class and women's rights.

Fellowes actually knew very little about the origins of football when he began the project, but he was aware of its force firsthand. His son, Pergrine, is a fan of Manchester United, and, as a boy, decorated his pillowcases, duvet covers and lampshades with the team's crest.

The father and son attended matches and the Fellowes soon grew to admire the players.

''When you watch anything - and I do pretty well mean anything - being done superbly, it generates an interest even in the hearts of someone who is not particularly concerned with that subject,'' he explains.

''Watching Manchester United coming down the pitch, running like a sort of Russian ballet, was extraordinary.''

The English Game is based on the true story of Fergus Suter, a Scott regarded as the first full-time professional. He was lured to Lancashire to join the local team, becoming the first player to earn a salary for his skills.

It was a time in England when the rules of football had been codified by the elite - bankers and lawyers who wore white ties and tails for dinner considered the game something only gentlemen  participated in.

But it was attracting fans in industrial towns too, who were challenging the elite not just on the field but also in the streets, demanding better treatment, higher wages and unions.

The social change in Britain at the time mirrored the changes in football. On the pitch, working men from Lancashire teams like Blackburn Rovers were beating teams made up of upper crust Eton College alumni, using speed and passing to beat the their better nourished rivals.

Football was helping industrial towns bind together, creating a sense of community and eventually motivating workers to demand changes.

''Here was something that would bind them into a unit, that would bind them into a community,'' Fellowes says. ''Most human beings spend their lives trying to feel they belong to something that has value. And here it was just given on a plate.''

THE ENGLISH GAME is filled with Fellowes' brimming sense of humanity and respect for all sides.

''My philosophy is a simple one,'' he adds. ''I believe that most men and women are doing their best. Whatever they have born to, whatever they've given, they're trying to do their best. Of course, there are some people who are not trying to do their best but they are very much in the minority.''

The World Students Society thanks News Desk/The Express Tribune.


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