Lesson #323?: Fulham’s Wet (Soccer) Footballs

Full disclosure: I am longtime Tottenham supporter. Because I’m a glutton for punishment. Their recent success is quite a nice change from my constant expectation that the other shoe will drop. Then again, a side without Gareth Bale (who is sure to leave) might return to old form. 

I heard a tidbit on a fairly reputable TV program the other day that I’ve been desperately trying to verify since because it was fascinating. According to this program, way back in the late 1800s when Fulham began play at Craven Cottage, and well before footballs were corporately sponsored, the team paid a man to row out and retrieve balls kicked out of the stadium. Now…let’s back up a bit.

Fulham’s grounds sit quite literally on the banks of the Thames. The ground has an interesting back story of its own, but what’s important here is that the bankside stand used to look like this,* so it couldn’t have been particularly uncommon for balls to clear the stadium and land in the river.

Unfortunately, the only information I can find on anything even remotely related is that Fulham paid mudlarks to retrieve balls that landed in the river, that four of them died retrieving the footballs, and that there used to be a plaque outside Craven Cottage dedicated to their memory. It was, apparently, replaced by the hideous Michael Jackson statue. But the site, while informative, is not exactly academic, and I can’t find anything to verify it. There appear to be no pictures of this plaque online (despite the fact that it was removed two years ago) and there’s no mention of anything to do with the mudlarks or a man in a boat on Fulham’s site.

So it occurred to me to go directly to the source and email Fulham and see what they had to say about it. Surely, they’ve got some knowledge of this? Anyway, I’m awaiting their response. I am nothing, if not thorough.

*This is quite literally the first time I have ever accessed a team site that wasn’t Spurs or Sparta (my Gambrinus League team). At least it wasn’t Arsenal.

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