‘Just play, have fun, enjoy the game’

The Tab gets philosophical about IMS football

These are maybe not the words you’d expect to hear from Michael Jordan – hailed by some as the greatest athlete of any sport.

Nevertheless, these are the same words and principles preached to us all, as children first getting into sport. Forgotten and ignored with the ever-growing competitiveness that comes with age, can we see these ideals in the world of University sport?

Looking fly MJ

I would argue yes. Where though?

Intra-mural football – the land where portly referees refuse to roam beyond the constraints of the centre circle; where there exist changing rooms to rival North Korea in a survey of ‘Most Disconcerting Places to Be’; where pitches run about as smoothly as Gaza Strip negotiations; and where spirits are higher than Charlie Sheen. Here, more than anywhere else, MJ’s words echo loudest.

I bore witness to this phenomenon last Wednesday, where the Division 2 clash between Lenton and Wortley Hall and Karnival saw enjoyment triumph over preparation.

The two sides put together what turned out to be an epic encounter undoubtedly worthy of entry into the Grove Farm history books.

Reputations were certainly lived up to in the pre-match battle of minds. Lenton and Wortley (who I was bemused to discover recently have a reputation of being ‘rah’?!) arrived at Grove Farm early and were fully warmed-up by the time the Karnival team arrived. Parading in, minutes before kick-off, came Karnival, sporting amusing t-shirts and a sense of joviality that would brighten even a Scottish day in winter.

The first-half left little to write home about, ending not only with the score level at 0-0, but also on the sour note of what appeared to be a fairly serious knee injury to Karnival’s left winger.

The second half, however, promised much more, as both teams re-took the field with a spring in their step: Lenton due to a strong first-half performance and tactical team-talk, Karnival thanks to some half-time oranges and a team-talk that produced a worrying amount of laughter.

It didn’t disappoint either. Karnival quickly fired themselves into the lead following a majestic 20-yard screamer that looped over the Lenton goalkeeper, who could do little but admire the strike before picking the ball out of the back of the net.

As you would expect, this sent the Karnival players into a state of delirium that lasted long enough for Lenton to respond with two quick-fire goals. First, despite the aforementioned inactivity of Grove Farm referees, Lenton were correctly awarded a penalty, which was dispatched with aplomb. Soon after, a functional attacking move from Lenton was finished ruthlessly with a one-yard finish.

However, just enough time remained for Karnival to bounce back. They equalised thanks to some dismal marking on behalf of the Lenton defence from a Karnival free-kick. Finally, with little time remaining on the clock, Karnival were able to claim victory with yet another sweet strike from outside the box that left the hapless Lenton keeper helpless once more.

Despite Lenton’s clear dominance, the score finished 3-2 in Karnival’s favour. Perhaps Karnival’s added enjoyment of the game – as opposed to Lenton’s meticulous preparation – was key to the former walking away victorious?

I’m certainly not suggesting that preparation, effort and focus are useless or unnecessary, but I do think that having fun is underrated. Whether or not you believe that Karnival’s ability to enjoy the game more than Lenton played a part in them winning, I think there is a clear lesson to be learnt from the way they went about it.

When it comes down to it, intra-mural football is not the be-all end-all. I hope that the memory of playing and enjoying football with your mates at University will last longer than the odd, irrelevant victory against NeuroscienceSoc or whoever. Even so, at the end of day, Crisis accepts those drowning their sorrows just as happily as it welcomes those celebrating a victory.