The true story of the investigative journalist who helped create the rules of soccer – and also searched for mermaids. Arthur Pember titillated Victorian New York with his muckraking journalism. He wrote about crime, corruption and a bizarre search for mermaids. But there was one episode he never wrote about: serving as the first president of the Football Association and setting out the Laws of the Game.

“Standing on a sloop off the southern tip of Manhattan on a pleasant April morning in 1873, Arthur Pember lowered a 25-pound brass helmet onto his head and fixed it to the collar of his waterproof suit with 12 nuts and bolts. His suit was made of layered canvas and India rubber. Beneath it, Pember wore a thick woolen shirt, underpants, and stockings; his waterproof gloves were secured to his sleeves with brass rings. On his feet were lead-soled boots that weighed 16 pounds. A further hundred pounds of lead weight were strapped to his chest. The weight of his mustache was unknown, but it was at least 10 inches long.”

Published as “Pember’s code” in issue 10 of Howler, the US magazine about soccer.

Read an expanded version of the story on the Howler website.

Published by Paul Brown

Writes about football, history, true adventure. The Guardian, Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard, Longreads, Deadspin, etc. Latest book: The Ruhleben Football Association. Twitter: @paulbrownUK