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Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Monday, 12 July 2010 15:22 UK
How Manchester took sport of lacrosse to its heart
England v Ireland lacrosse match
England are one of the top six lacrosse sides at the tournament

It's no accident that Manchester has been chosen to host the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships (15 - 24 July).

Thirty nations are competing in the city's biggest sporting event since the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

But this sport - known affectionately by its native American founders as 'the little brother of war' - has a strong history in the city.

For over a century, generations of youngsters have enjoyed playing Manchester's 'best kept secret.'

Violent

When the world's finest lacrosse nations line up on the artificial pitches at the Armitage Centre in Fallowfield, they will be reviving an ancient tradition which goes back 700 years.

The game of lacrosse was created by native Americans in the 15th century as a way of settling disputes between tribes.

It's such a great game, there's such a great community around it that anyone who plays it, falls in love with it
Peter Aiton, Stockport Lacrosse Club

Contests viewed by early missionaries were fast and furious - and frequently bloody; teams of up to a hundred players wielding long sticks with nets fought fierce contests to hit a goal with a skin-covered ball.

A version of lacrosse which mimicked the rigours of combat, was even known by some native Americans as 'the little brother of war.'

According to the UK's oldest lacrosse club in Stockport, interest in Manchester began as a result of an exhibition match between Canadian Montreal Club and Caughnawaga Indians at Old Trafford cricket ground as part of a UK tour to promote the sport in 1875.

Chairman Peter Aiton said: "Apparently, it was seen by a bunch of rugby players who were on the train heading back to Stockport.

"They saw this fast-paced, athletic game played by men waving strange sticks around their heads, liked what they saw and decided to take it up," he said.

Fast, it certainly is. Today's stars can hurl the ball at speeds of up to 110mph.

Thrived

Since that very first game 130+ years ago, the game has thrived locally.

Manchester is considered the centre for men's lacrosse in the UK, English Lacrosse has its headquarters in Belle Vue and the city boasts more than 20 clubs, producing some of the UK's top players.

LACROSSE IN MANCHESTER
Lacrosse pitch
The 2010 World Lacrosse Championships are in Fallowfield (15 - 24 July)
30 nations are taking part with USA and Canada favourites
UK's oldest lacrosse club is in Stockport
Manchester hosted 1978 and 1994 World Championships.

It's the third time Manchester has staged the World Championships and 5,000 spectators will watch tournament favourites USA and Canada battle it out on this year's Super Saturday.

Also, for the first time ever, a World Lacrosse Festival is being staged alongside the tournament allowing local youngsters to play at the same time as their lacrosse heroes.

"I think of it as Manchester's best kept secret," said event director David Shuttleworth.

"But, for a small sport, it's really taken off especially at universities where the number of clubs has gone up from six to 62 in the last four years."

David was introduced to the game as a pupil at William Hulme's Grammar School, one of dozens of schools in the city where the sport is played and is now a volunteer at Timperley Lacrosse Club.

"I say to my kids, 'native Americans were rewarded by being allowed to play the 'perfect game'. Now, it's your turn to be chosen to play lacrosse.' "

Peter Aiton, who's acting as a team liaison officer for the Iroquois national side at the World Championships, said he was not surprised that Manchester has taken the sport to its heart.

"You can see why," he added. "It's such a great game, there's such a great community around it that anyone who plays it, falls in love with it."

The FIL World Lacrosse Championships are being played at the Armitage Sports Centre in Fallowfield (15 - 24 July 2010)




SEE ALSO
What is lacrosse?
11 May 06 |  Lacrosse


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