I’m a final-year student who is lucky enough to have three 9am lectures this semester. Now, between you and me, I haven’t been on time for a single one. I know, I should be prioritising my education, especially in the final few weeks of my degree, but I just can’t stop getting the bus that comes 10 minutes later than I need. Yet, the one time I arrived in front square before nine o’clock was for a 5-a-side football match in Botany Bay.
I want to make something completely clear – I’m pretty terrible at football. My most recent game resulted in a loss, thanks in part to a stunning own goal by yours truly – a finish any professional footballer would’ve been proud of. In fact, our team has had lengthy discussions about our preference to play in the rain because it benefits our favourite tactic of putting everyone in defence and praying we don’t concede. My fitness leaves a lot to be desired as well. I’m ashamed to say that my body hurt for almost a week after our first game a few weeks back.
But there’s just something about stepping out onto that hallowed turf that just has me coming back for more. Don’t be fooled, we treat the league with utmost respect. Despite our team being somewhat small in stature, tempers have been known to boil over from time to time, especially from our resident enforcer Feargus. In fact, I caught someone with a stray elbow to the face last week – a complete accident, of course. (When describing this incident to my family, my sister correctly pointed out that a I didn’t elbow his face, he actually faced my elbow.)
My love-affair with five-a-side football started all the way back in my first year when myself and some friends from school entered the league, our team aptly named “Pathetico Madrid”. We didn’t win many games but there was no looking back. In second year, I broadened my horizons and joined a second team, one made up of writers for this newspaper. Through this, I remember vividly the day College was closed for the pandemic. We were scheduled to have a match but our opponents (rightfully) didn’t feel comfortable playing amidst such uncertainty. In fact, this may remain my prevailing memory of how the pandemic started for years to come.
My love-affair with five-a-side football started all the way back in my first year when myself and some friends from school entered the league, our team aptly named Pathetico Madrid
With Trinity closed, my third year of football was robbed and, similarly, placement at the beginning of my fourth year meant two whole years of me being unable to leave my blood, sweat and tears on the astro. And such, we are brought up to the present day, with the same team that began all the way back in first year still together for our proverbial last dance. (I consider myself the Michael Jordan of our version of the 1996 Chicago Bulls but this might be disputed somewhat by my teammates, some of which actually know how to play football). With three wins from our first four games, we have our eyes set firmly on making the playoffs.
The operation is run with laser-like precision. There are, I believe, four total divisions, each filled up with 10 teams and each team has some sort of playoffs to aspire to. The top four teams go to the super league cup, teams five and six to the super league shield, seven and eight find themselves in the super league plate (the best seventh-place finish makes it to the shield) and the bottom two teams compete for the super league wooden spoon. Each team is given a game at the end of the previous week and, while they have a slot, it is up to them to get the game played and finished at whatever time suits in advance of the next week. Naturally, there is a weekly scramble to get the best times (despite my assertions that I made our 9am game on time, we weren’t too happy to have drawn the short straw on what time we had to play and not everyone shared my enthusiasm for punctuality). I have never ending respect for the organisers for what is, no doubt, a tricky thing to coordinate.
In all honesty, five-a-side football has been one of the fondest parts of my college experience. It’s easy to grow apart from school friends once college life starts and everything changes and, despite turning down the proposition of post game pints on a weekly basis, I appreciate the opportunity to see friends on a weekly basis when otherwise meetings would’ve been much more sparse. It’s something that, win or lose, is regularly the highlight of my week.
I have never ending respect for the organisers for what is, no doubt, a tricky thing to coordinate
Despite uncertainties on whether our winning start is because we have miraculously improved our football skills over the various lockdowns (unlikely), or just that we’ve played against the worst teams in our division (likely), we have lofty ambitions and dream of a fairytale ending for the powerhouse that has been Pathetico Madrid.