Like many women, I’ve had offers.
Recent offers have included the chance to play Freyathlon football on some impressive pitches but, for too many boring and complicated reasons, none of the offers happened. So I emailed some friends and used what now passes as a poster in the local pub or shop, a post on two online community forums, to invite people to join me for a football game in my local park.
Once people started responding I realised I lacked some essential kit – a football. Luckily, an appeal to my dragon boat team worked (thank you Denise and Andy!) and I returned home from a training session with a slightly deflated ball, which took three bike pumps (don’t ask!) and a needle (thank you Hector and Adele!) to restore the ball to its match-fit glory.
As the game-day approached, messages and questions trickled in: how many people will be playing, how will you decide teams, the weather forecast doesn’t look good, what are you going to wear, what time will we finish, I’ve never played football. My answers: no idea, no idea, oh, no idea, no idea, neither have I. My approach may not have instilled confidence.
I’d hoped we might have enough people for a game of 5-a-side so imagine my surprise when 13 people turned up to play at Mountsfield Park and created my first player/manager nightmare – how to pick teams.
Luke suggested short/long hair, Pip suggested shorts/no shorts, Vanessa suggested colours – all good suggestions but none would have worked. So I went with who knew who and tried to make sure each team had some people who I suspected had prior knowledge of the beautiful game.
My team of seven shared names and looked at each other a lot, in an attempt to at least try to remember each other’s faces. Luke asked where people wanted to play: Laurence volunteered to go in goal and I forgot to offer him my gloves, Vanessa asked to play on the right because she couldn’t kick with her left foot, Pip and I looked blankly at each other, Deborah said her dodgy knee meant she’d be walking not running, Rob said he was happy to play anywhere andset up his GoPro so the Freyathlon audience would be able to watch the unedited game and listen to the touchline commentary from our three supporters.
Some of the players ran onto the pitch, others strolled on, discussing whether walking football was an option, and I kicked the ball to mark the start of the referee-less Big Game between Cunning Stunts and Mountsfield Massive. Yes. We chose those names.
After we’d been playing some time, I remembered to tell Judith on the touchline we’d be playing for 15 minutes and asked her to keep an eye on the time.
Some people had clearly played before and displayed fine footwork. Some people were fast and nimble. Some people were determined and dogged. I lumbered up and down the pitch, putting my shouting and charging tactics to good effect.
Livi made sure throws were made and kicks were taken, and most of us took them from the right spot. There were corners, goal kicks, attacks on goal, solid defending, a couple of players took an unassisted tumble and got to their feet with hardly a word. Three goals were scored in the first half: Chris and Trace for Cunning Stunts, Deborah for Mountsfield Massive.
At half time the atmosphere was relaxed with both teams laughing and swapping stories. Zoe, in good form after taking part in the London Marathon for the third time, had had the foresight to bring half time refreshments, which were much-appreciated by both teams.
Back on the pitch for the second half, Rob and Luke alternated in goal, allowing Laurence to zip up and down the pitch and score for Mountsfield Massive. Chris scored a second goal for Cunning Stunts, and Deborah scored a second goal for Mountsfield Massive.
As Judith called time, I realised the match couldn’t finish in a draw and told the teams the game would be decided by penalties.
Shirley agreed to go in goal for Cunning Stunts and Luke did the honours for Mountsfield Massive. After a challenge by Caroline and Trace, Mountsfield Massive agreed only six of its team would take penalties and Lawrence waived his spot on the penalty spot.
Livi scored for Cunning Stunts and I kicked the ball straight at Shirley. Luke saved penalties from Caroline, Chris, Rebecca, Shirley, and Trace. Shirley saved penalties from Deborah, Pip, and Vanessa, but Luke and Rob managed to put the ball in the back of the net.
Final score, 5:4. Mountsfield Massive were over the moon, and Cunning Stunts were sick as a parrot.
The day after the game I learned about two injuries: Rob had to withdraw from the Milton Keynes marathon due to a twangy knee and Trace feared a metatarsal injury after her in-game fall caused a painful swelling on the top of her foot.
Freyathlon is about encouraging people to give it a go. Nothing demonstrated that more than this event. People travelled from different parts of London to take part, people I’d met at other Freyathlon events came along, people who’d seen my appeal online turned up – even people who couldn’t make it told me they were gutted to miss the Big Game.
And there’ll be other chances to get involved Freyathlon…
Football. 28 April 2016
Mountsfield Park, Lewisham
TeamFreya: Caroline, Cecilia, Chris, Deborah, Judith, Laurence, Livi, Luke, Pip, Rebecca, Rob, Shirley, Trace, Vanessa, Zoe