As very recently mentioned on this site, on Monday 10th October, the Doorway football team took part in the second Oxford Social Inclusion Cup. This competition was organised by the tireless Jon Regler of Streets Revolution , and was timed specifically to coincide with World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day.
The catchphrase (and Twitter hashtag) for the tournament was #morethanwords, the idea being that people should look beyond stereotypes and labels to see the individual people underneath.
The first tournament took place in 2010, and though Doorway was invited, the drop-in football session was at too early a stage in terms of numbers attending for this to be feasible, and the logistics of getting people to Oxford while a Monday general drop-in session was taking place back in Chippenham were another inhibitory factor.
However, as reported in our first ‘season review’, the number of guests attending the football drop-in has risen during the first year, and the team had really enjoyed the WASP tournament in Trowbridge in May. So when the OSIC invitation came, we really couldn’t wait for the day to come round.
There were challenges to be met – the pitches would be grass, so studded boots, and therefore, as other teams would be wearing studded boots, shinpads, would be needed, so we tried to beg, borrow and buy cheaply to plug this gap. And there were, as before, the logistics to consider. For the former, in one case I called in on a friend in Hove to collect some equipment (thanks, Toby). For the latter, Ladyfield Evangelical Church, where the football project plays, really came up trumps, and agreed to provide a minibus and driver for the day.
A setback came only five days before the tournament, when the tournament rules arrived, and it sunk in that the Oxfordshire County FA endorsement that Jon had needed to arrange meant that the teams would be male only, as the FA has a rigid policy on not allowing mixed gender teams above the age of 13. I shall not get involved in discussing this here apart from linking to this piece written when mixed teams were not allowed over the age of 11, and noting that adult male teams often have some fairly mismatched physiques.
The person this most affected was Kerrie-Anne, one of our most committed players, who was available and committed to play. We considered withdrawing in solidarity with her, but the decision was turned over to the guests themselves, in line with our policy of the project being as guest-led as possible. It was decided that a team would still be sent, and that Kerrie-Anne would come as a non-playing member of the squad.
And so we set off, as near to 9 a.m as we could manage – Jon Regler had been informed that we couldn’t leave before then, and would not be able to get to Warneford Hospital for the 10 a.m.start. He had agreed that we should not be allocated one of the first games. As it was, we were a little delayed by a misunderstanding with two players over the meeting point. Our driver Jon Brain was cheerful throughout as we eventually assembled our minibusful including the WASP players, and a young American, Zach, who had to tolerate a certain amount of teasing, and ended up playing for the WASP team!
I can only speak for myself, but I was excited but nervous (again). Kev and myself had refereed in Streets Revolution’s 2010 Summer Tournament, and I remembered the standard as being a little better than that of the WASP tournament. And, as at WASP, the tournament would allow high balls, and more ‘robust’ play was likely, than our usual skills-based futsal. Also, teams were coming from all over, from as far afield as Cricklewood, Southend, Huntingdon, Crewe and Leicester. In total, 30 were expected.
When we arrived, about 10:45, it was with relief that we could see that the games had only just got going, and with much less immediate relief (after 90 minutes on the road) that we discovered only 2 toilets in the changing rooms….. A brisk wind was evident, and one of the pitches in particular had a very marked slope. However, the ‘give’ in the turf seemed perfect.
I handed our registration forms into Lindsey Horsfield from Sport For All, who was kind enough to comment on the first football blog on this site a year ago. I then had the chance to say hello to John Armstrong, Oxford United FC’s Social Inclusion Officer, who was refereeing with Kev and myself at the 2010 SR Summer Tournament mentioned earlier, and whom I was able to tease about us both losing count of the penalties in one of the semi-finals. At least at OSIC 2011 he wasn’t having to be dressed as Olly the Ox…….
The format was of 5 round-robin groups of six teams, 6-a-side, rolling substitutes, 15 minute games. The winners of each group and the three best runners-up would go through to the quarter-finals – the knock-out stage.
A brief warm-up, and we were underway. First game was against ‘The ‘A’ Team’ (from, if I remember correctly, Witney). A pattern was soon established, which continued throughout our games, of trying to keep a tight defence, linked by Chris to our marauding front pairing of Guy and Kev, who notched one each in a 2-0 win.
Second game, same scorers, same scoreline, against Booth House from Swindon.
Third game, against Salisbury House, we cruised to 3-0 up with a superb Kev hat-trick. This was all going incredibly well. And then, just before the end, we conceded one. Only a consolation goal in a 3-1 win, but I have a theory that that was the moment it all turned sour. Up to then, including Trowbridge, we had played nearly 10 games, scoring 11 goals and conceding none in regular game play. Our goal was unbreached, we were invincible. And now we weren’t. Or maybe it was the change of pitch. Or the change of referee. Or………
We knew that a win in either of our last two games would see us through. Fourth game was against Oxford Clinic B. Concentration levels weren’t helped by a player fitting on the adjacent pitch (he recovered fine, I’m glad to report), causing suspension of play, but that was the same for both teams, and we already weren’t seeming ‘up for it’ as in the first three games. Some untidy defending led to a penalty being conceded for encroachment into the goalkeeper’s area, and although Lee went the right way, the penalty was blasted high and very effectively into the net. Confusion on our part over whether the ball had gone out at the side and if so, whether the kick-in had been taken, led to their forward getting the ball clean through, unmarked. He slotted home, 2-0, and that was that.
So, fifth game, Streets Revolution Huntingdon. Other results meant that a win would still put us through, and a draw probably would. But within the first 30 seconds, one of our defenders was caught in possession on the edge of the area, and a very clever finish was what proved to be the only goal of the game. Our edge never returned, and that was that. Eliminated, and off to collect our competitors’ medals and thoughtfully put together goody bags.
For the record, the tournament winners were Union Street FC from St Clement’s, Oxford, with the splendid nickname ‘The Minty Badgers’. The Fair Play Cup was won by Oxfordshire MIND and Restore’s joint team, Restore East.
So, a tournament of two halves (well, three fifths and two fifths) for us, and disappointment to miss out on the quarter-finals by a mere point, but reflecting on it, here are some of the positives:
— A year ago, we couldn’t even muster a team to take part in OSIC – now we were easily able to, could even lend a player to WASP (thanks to Tony for agreeing to that), and were a competitive force. And there were some very good teams out there, some of whom play outdoors lots, and even play
regularly in leagues. This was only our second competitive outing.
— We enjoyed the craic on the minibus there and back (thanks are due again to Jon B for putting up with this boisterousness with very good humour), and indeed all day, and built further bridges with our friends from WASP.
– While we were swanning around playing football, the usual drop-in session, the core of Doorway’s work, was going on back in Chippenham.
— We could have been playing on the pitch next to the very loud Jack FM commentator, who was making some merciless comments about some of the mistakes he saw near to him….. On the other hand, Lee did manage to be on the BBC Oxford coverage for about two seconds.
— We generally had a great day at a marvellous and well-run tournament, where players felt respected as individuals and all equal whatever else was in their ‘backstories’.
Some comments from our players, on the minibus home:
“I have mixed feelings about it. We wiped the floor with the first three teams, but then in the last two games we made a couple of minor errors which cost us dearly”
“It was a tournament of two halves for us. Definitely a case of ‘what might have been’”
“The best moment for me was my second goal. We were unlucky – we didn’t get the best of some refereeing decisions. We’re still improving”
“Even though we didn’t qualify for the quarter-finals, we were successful in playing as a team, and I can’t wait until the next one – we’ll smash them!”
“I’m really proud of the guys, both through the way they handled themselves and the efforts they put in. They all did well to turn up at silly o’clock on a Monday. Well done to Kerrie-Anne for turning up to support us despite her disappointment at not being able to play. Jon Regler put on a good show, and the people who attended felt valued. It was quite a diverse tournament. Can’t wait until the next one!”
And from the ‘Minty Badgers’:
“Thanks to you [Jon R] and everyone else involved in making yesterday such a great day – though my knees wouldn’t agree today!
Union Street had not really known what to expect, but the atmosphere was great, and the games were competitive but friendly – a lot friendlier than some of the games we have on Saturdays!”
Just one last thought – the Doorway Blues won’t be the Doorway Blues for much younger. New kit is in the offing. And again, the guests have decided what they want. Apparently, it’ll lull our opponents into a false sense of security……..
Anybody care to help fund it?………….