Are you a footie fan? To be honest, I wasn’t either. But then I heard about two international matches – Wales Vs England over 55s and over 60s – and I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera and going along. The venue was Forest Green Football Club just outside Stroud in Gloucestershire and that’s a proper football club, just so you know. It’s also just round the corner from me, so no way was I going to miss out on this. The whole event was ‘proper’ – on time, international rituals and routines followed, a top class ref and linesmen, national anthems before play, rousing music during the breaks and loudspeaker announcements of the scores. As usual however, with masters’ sports events, empty seats in the stands.
But, but, but…it was fabulous. The team coaches and subs alongside the pitch made one mother of a noise! The players themselves yell a lot too. Who needs fans in the stands when you can generate this decibel level yourselves? And there’s not a lot of deference to the poor ref either, I noticed. He’d blow his whistle and a player would turn on him, eyes wide in disbelief and brow furrowed in fury. “What? WHAAAAAT?” Or a coach might bellow “Ref! REF!!! SURELY?!!” – to which the ref, obviously used to the abuse, would shout back “and don’t call me Shirley!” Oh, this was my level of humour entirely. I loved, loved, loved it.
The football itself? Wow. These guys were super-fit and super-fast. They were also super-competitive. Somehow I’d missed out on just how violent a game football can be. The tackles, the headers (where more than one guy leaps in the air to try to head off the ball, risking heading off the head of his opponent in the process…ouch!), the muddy slides and falls to the ground. A couple of times a player ended up lying on the ground in apparent agony, the whistle was blown and the physio ran onto the pitch with his or her little bag of who knows what. Then two minutes later the player would be up, wince for a moment (a tad theatrically? I loved that too) and then charge off for the next attack.
I had the best time. Not sure I took the best photos. It was a first for me with football and I can see I’ve a lot to learn. But I got one or two nice snaps really; I think you can’t call them much more than that. And I’m itching to get another crack at this. The guys were incredibly welcoming and friendly and it looks like both sides could do with a tame photographer from time to time, even if the end results aren’t premier league standard.
The scores? In the 55s, Wales won 4-1. In the 60s it was a draw, 1 goal each. Well played guys, all of you. You were awesome. And thanks for the great welcome. Both sides, you’ve got a new fan.