Explore the world of H.E. Bates: Sport

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The Beautiful Game

H.E. loved football. When he was 18 he played for Rushden Town and dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. He loved the camaraderie of the game as much as playing and wrote about all aspects of it with great fascination and affection. In an article in 1958 he described it as 'the most beautiful game' and wondered why no one had written a book about 'this lovely and intelligent game'. He was deeply affected by the tragedy of the Munich air crash in 1958 and the loss of so many of Manchester United’s talented young players. His tribute to the team was published in The Football Year Book 1958-59.

Hefishing

Cricket, Fishing, Skating & Athletics

Cricket and athletics were another welcome distraction for H.E. during his early, unhappy years at school. He played cricket for Rushden and later Little Chart, and again the warmth and camaraderie of the game was part of its essential pleasure for him. He writes about village cricket in A Rabbit Remembers.

Rivers and ponds were also constant sources of both relaxation and excitement: in summer he fished on them, in the winter he skated, writing later about the thrill and joy of skating outdoors in this lovely article, The Charm of Skating.

Football is the most beautiful game in the world...I do not suppose there is a footballer who will not remember to his dying day; the smell of the dressing room: that frowsy mixture of steam and sweat, liniment and antiseptic, boots and bodies.
- H.E. Bates

Did You Know?

  • He was asked to write match reports on the FA Cup Finals for the Sunday Times, but one year, hating crowds, he decided to leave before the match had finished, and missed a late goal!
  • H.E. loved skating and always longed for the lakes to freeze so he could skate: “I wish it would snow and snow and snow and light up my soul” Letter to Madge 1930