(…..and possibly silver……..)
Wednesday December 7th, Croft Sports Centre, Old Town, Swindon – the Swindon and Wiltshire Adult Inclusion Festival. Doorway’s third time in a football tournament (following on our appearances at WASP 2011 and OSIC 2011), and our first playing in the new (very pink) pink kit.
The decision to enter this competition could only be made once the work commitments of staff / volunteers / chauffeurs were known, and once we were confident we would have enough players to send a squad of up to 8 players to play 5 games of 5-a-side football (with roll-on / roll-off substitutes).
There was an early hiccup with the entry form, which was requiring, 4 weeks in advance, names of players, and their dates of birth. Doorway treats very seriously the confidentiality of the information it holds regarding gueats, and was not prepared to submit the date of birth details. Also, due to the often complicated lives of many of the guests of the project, it is difficult to guarantee attendance several weeks ahead. Although, having said that, one would have to say that the level of commitment and dependabililty shown by many of the players has been and remains exceptionally good. As for the dates of birth, all of the individual guests I spoke to were in fact happy to give that detail to me separately for the purposes of the tournament if needed
These issues were taken up with the organiser, Adam Greaney, the ‘Get Into Football’ Officer at Wiltshire County F.A., who was very understanding and helpful, was happy with a signed blanket declaration that all players were over 18, and understood that there might be squad adjustments prior to first kick off.
There was also the same issue as with the Oxford Social Inclusion Cup – the tournament was F.A. sanctioned (and in this case, organised), and so mixed gender teams would not be allowed. This was again a major disappointment for one of our female ‘regulars’ (the other regular would not have been available due to work). More of this issue later.
The staff / volunteer availability was eventually sorted out after it was negotiated that Doorway would not play in the opening pair of matches (more help given from Adam) so Kev could come straight from another commitment to meet us at the Croft.
By the time the Wednesday dawned, the number of teams taking part had gone down from 8 to 6, as two sadly could not achieve the staff cover to send their teams. The format would therefore be a round-robin league where each team played 5 20-minute games, sometimes two in a row, with no half-time, on an outdoor 3G pitch. We would really need to use all our players, as the schedule would be physically hard. So it was a worry when we were near the time to leave Chippenham, and potentially only had 5 players, as two hadn’t turned up, and the availability of another hadn’t been confirmed. It turned out subsequently that one had had problems with his new alarm, another had had a domestic crisis and also a problem with his phone, so couldn’t let us know. The third, was tracked down in time, so at least we would have 6.
When we arrived at the Croft, we saw my friend Jon Regler, of Streets Revolution, and a major inspiration for our project. He thought that Streets Revolution Swindon might have a spare player, but though this turned out not to be the case, he said he was happy to play for us – and, as it proved, we certainly needed him!
Conditions were dry but very windy (Old Town is on a hill side), but the pitch looked lovely, and it was good to know we wouldn’t be subject to the usual Astroturf ‘sanding-down’ grazes if we fell over. We got changed into our pink kit, and were really rather pleased with how it looked, and how well the Doorway logo stood out. Our thanks are very sincerely due to Peter and Beccy Wanless for funding the kit (and, before anybody asks, this was nothing to do with Peter’s role as CEO of the Big Lottery Fund, and everything to do with them being really nice and generous people with Chippenham links).
We watched one of the first pair of games, which seemed to be of a decent standard, and then we were on, against the Salisbury Saxons. We started like an express train, and stormed into a 2-0 lead before the opposition had had a chance to settle. They then fought back to 3-2 up, before we levelled and scored a late winner. The next game, by contrast, the second of two back-to-back, found us fighting back to level, only to lose to almost the last kick of the match due to an unfortunate mistake.
The day continued to be a matter of ebb and flow during games, often depending on whether key players were needing to take a breather. We were best served by playing to our futsal-trained strengths of keeping the ball on the ground, and playing a pass-and-move possession game. We went into our last two games, having won the third game comfortably after falling behind, and having watched WASP and Sportz Central Club battling out a high-scoring draw, knowing that if we won our last two games, against those two sides, top place would be achieved.
The game against our old friends from WASP started with Doorway exerting lots of pressure, but Lee G putting them ahead against the run of play. We then galloped away to a 6-1 win, so local bragging rights were secured, if nothing else. But the last match, for top place, against the young and fit Sportz Central, was a ‘bridge too far’. An early lead, but first tiredness, and then injury, kicked in. Chris pulled a muscle, attempted to come back on after a short break, and then the injury broke down altogether after we’d pulled back to 3-4. We were well beaten in the end. The man short had come home to roost, but we had lost to a good side.
We think we came second, on goal difference from SCC, but Adam was not making a final table available, as he wanted the day to be about taking part rather than winners and losers. We all certainly enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and were very happy with the overall performances. There was resilience to be proud of – we won 3 out of the 5 games, and in all of those we were behind at one stage (we were ahead at some point in 4 out of the 5, but that’s another matter…). Some of the football played by Doorway was superb, with some great finishing (including Chris’s goal direct from a corner!). One of our players said afterwards that “the first 5 minutes of the first game were the best we’ve ever played”
Great thanks are due to Jon, as we really needed his help on the pitch – and he may be playing on memory nowadays, but he clearly has some decent skills to remember. He kindly tweeted afterwards “happy to help, a great day, and a great bunch of lads”.
In his speech at the end, Adam talked of the possibility of a regular league. Our players are very excited by this possibility, but, assuming it takes place on midweek daytimes, there will be logistical problems of staff / volunteer availability. But we shall see…
As for the issue of mixed-gender participation – I can’t see any easy way round this. As the ‘homeless football’ movement in England is becoming more and more established. links with the Football Association are becoming stronger, and tournaments are now running under the FA umbrella. And that means no mixed gender teams for over 13 year-olds. It’s a battle that has been fought all over the world, and I don’t see things changing any time soon….
But ending on a more positive note, another really enjoyable and creditable day, making all involved feel better about themselves, flying the flag for Doorway, and we sometimes have to pinch ourselves to think how far Doorway’s football project has come in such a short space of time. Enormous thanks to all teams involved for their participation, friendliness and sportsmanship, and to Adam for his excellent organisation.
The results and Doorway scorers:
Doorway 4 (Chris, Guy 2, Kev) Salisbury Saxons 3
Doorway 2 (Guy, Chris) SCC 3
Doorway 5 (Chris 3, Kev 2). Streets Revolution Swindon 2
Doorway 6 (Chris 3, Kev 2, Guy) WASP 1
Doorway 3 (Chris, Kev, Jon) Sportz Central Club 6
W 3 D 0 L 2 F 20 A 15
The Flickr Photostream of the day:Vodpod videos no longer available.