June 21, 2017
More Than A Game would like to thank all of you who donated money to last weekend's London Football Marathon. Dozens of friends donated to the lads and our team raised over 2100 pounds (2500 euro). Thank you so much for your kindness! Your donations will improve the lives of others in Africa and I am sure they will actually save lives!
We would also like to give a big thank you to our team mates, who endured 30 degree temperatures playing football from 8am to 8.30pm. We will forever share a special bond for what we endured and what we accomplished. Thank you Marty, Manu, Warren, Will, Tom, Andy, Martins and Justin!
What happened on Saturday? … We met at 7am, four of our team driving through the night from Portsmouth on less than two hours sleep to play. At 8am the tournament kicked off: 48 teams playing 6-a-side on quite large grass pitches. Each game lasted approximately 25 minutes, with no breaks or half-time. Each squad was made up of 8 players, with 2 rolling substitutions. After a game finished, we needed to walk to another of the 25 pitches and start playing our next match 5 minutes later.
The heat was brutal. By 10am, the temperature was already into the 20s. In the morning, we played 7 group games and won all 7 games, scoring 19 and conceding just 2 goals. We were the only team in the first round to win all 7 games and were therefore leading the tournament at noon. At that stage, we believed we could win the tournament.
After the first round of games, there was a brief rest period but unfortunately half of our team had to referee other games in the break. We also lost one of our key players: Andrew, who needed to take his son to a football trial. Andy had kindly stepped in to help the team the week before after one of our team was forced to drop out on doctor's orders.
So, just 7 games into the tournament we were forced to play with 7 players, while other teams had 8. As round 2 began, we drew 0-0 with one of the eventual finalists. In game 9, we stopped for an infringement in the game but the other side played on and scored. Instead of disallowing the goal, the referee allowed it to stand. Our collective heads dropped and for the first time, we lost a match.
Worse was to follow in the next match as Warren got injured and two of our players got bad cramp.
This meant that by game 10 we were suddenly playing with just 6 players instead of 8 and with two of us playing with cramp. Inevitably, this meant “the wheels came off” and any chance we had of making it to the finals was gone.
Sadly, we were forced to play around 10 matches with no substitutions. One of the lads on another team told me clocked up 42 kilometres during the day and that was in a team with 2 rolling subs. I suspect, therefore, that some of our players may have covered 47 kilometres or more as the temperature hit 30 degrees!
In all honesty, all of us wanted to quit. It was hideous out there with no substitutions. I can't explain how awfully tiring it was playing football continuously hour-after-hour on grass, with no shade, no subs, and with the thermometer hitting 30 degrees.
After one match, I crawled off the pitch and threw up. In another match someone managed to break my nose. Our lads played on with severe cramp and injuries. To say I am proud of my team mates is an absolute understatement. We all went through hell in the mid-afternoon and early evening.
At around 8.30pm we played our final match. In total, we played 20 x 25 minutes. That is the equivelent of playing 5 full 90-minute matches in African temperatures. Our playing record was: Played 20, Won 12, Drew 3, Lost 5. Extremely respectable I would say. I believe if we had played with 8 players instead of 6 for much of the tournament then we certainly would have finished in the top 4.
But, ultimately, of course, the day was about fundraising and completing an endurance event. And WE DID IT! I am so proud of all of us. And I am proud of all the people who supported us financially and with their words of support!