As I watched my penalty bobble harmlessly wide, probably my last kick of a college football after nine seasons, I couldn’t work out whether this was the worst possible end, or perhaps the most fitting.
You see, college football is not entirely about the football – especially not what we might refer to as the beautiful game. Yes it provides the context and on occasions the standard rises as three or four of the better players (usually from Halifax) remember the triangles they were taught to pass in as kids.
However first and foremost, it’s about the players, rather than the game. I wonder how many college footballers live with their team-mates in their second and third years rather than their first-year flatmates.
How many live with members of opposing teams? How many nights out are football team (or other sports team) dominated? How many people find themselves perhaps not quite studying, but in the library nonetheless with teammates rather than course mates?
For me I remember plenty of the on-pitch incidents: my first game for Goodricke back in 2002, which was a 3-2 defeat to Derwent. My first goal, which was the winner in a 3-2 victory over Vanbrugh. My first sending off (of five), for a neck-high tackle on a pacey Langwith player. And now my last ever kick, a scuffed penalty in front of more people than I’d hoped would witness such a moment.
However, college football has been the source of many more non-footballing memories. It provided my best friends from university. It provided housemates. It was the foundation of pretty much every top night I had as an undergraduate. And when, long in the tooth, I decided that I couldn’t justify being picked by Goodricke seconds as a bit of a charity case, it provided me with another group of mates who were my own age and already had a degree in the bag.
I owe a great deal to college football. I imagine many others feel the same
These guys, along with my old football friends and my wife of course, have played such an important role in helping me through my PhD. I say all this because these are the people who have made university worth it.
Each one of them, except the wife, I would not have met had it not been for college football. So I owe a great deal to college football and I’d imagine many others feel the same. A debt of gratitude is owed to all those who make it possible: YUSU for the funding, all the captains of college football teams.
Not just all the Goodricke and Wentworth captains, but those from every college, because without the joint effort it surely would fall apart. A long list of AU Vice Presidents or whatever their new title is, especially the football-mad Stuart Leslie, Nik Engineer, Adam Clarke, and for me, the best leader of college football in nine years, Mark Lund.
This short piece is not space enough to retell my fondest stories or thank everyone who deserves to be thanked. I just want to say that for me, college football has provided my fondest memories of York.
Yes the standard or at least consistency of refereeing and the quality of pitches could improve. Yes we should have nets for every game and somebody should build a fence to stop the ball hitting the stream. But we should also feel pretty lucky; ask any Wentworth player who studied elsewhere before coming to York, most other places have nothing for those who don’t play university-level football.
People perhaps do not realise just how far college football has come either, especially the college cup. I sent my old teammates a link to Nouse’s coverage and they were simply gobsmacked. Why was it not like that in our day? That’s all they could ask.
Even when I’ve been moaning (sorry Dakkers), I’ve loved every minute. I’ll look back and remember all the lads who patted me on the back as I walked away from the penalty spot and not the fact that I’d just taken a penalty even worse than Jake Farrell’s.