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Diary of a Social Footballer: Introduction

Given how much I love football, it feels a bit odd to admit that I had to think for a while before committing to a team down here in Wellington. I didn’t play last season back home on Waiheke, due in part to a persistent ankle injury, which I wasn’t confident I’d completely shaken off (and had no desire to reinjure and thus end up sitting out the season anyway), as well as other commitments necessitating my time. I figured if I couldn’t completely, confidently commit to playing a competitive season, then I’d rather not. There are some things you can get away with doing half of heart and arse; but football’s not one of them.

With that in mind, having moved to Wellington to study for my MA in English literature at Victoria University this February, the question of whether or not to play this season lurked at the back of my mind. The challenges of such a move are obvious: finding work, finding cheap yet delicious food places, finding the library; now I was adding finding a team to the list.

As the name of this series suggests, I plumped for a social team (the mighty Vic Uni Women’s Thirds/Social, depending on who you talk to) rather than testing myself in one of the more competitive divisions. Given my reservations about my own potential for half-arsery – needing to allow as much time and headspace as possible for my thesis, and wanting to be able to enjoy the occasional jaunt home when funds allow – this seemed the best option.

We’re now a few games into the season, and it’s definitely proved to be the right choice. Having played in Auckland since I was nine, at most grounds there in some form or another, I’m looking forward to playing at clubs and fields brand new to me, and even venturing out of the city to the more far-flung ones. And most importantly, our team is a cool, somewhat eclectic group of students and recent graduates, who will make appearances in this series in various guises over the coming weeks and months, I’m sure.

Vic Uni Thirds

The mighty Vic Uni Thirds for 2016. I’m in the front row, first on the right.

In this series, I hope to provide a perspective on playing football. Many of the viewpoints that make up this blog come from the sidelines, TV or patchy internet stream, so I’m attempting to write from the other side of the white line. It won’t be a blow-by-blow match report every week, nor am I pretending to write Jamie Vardy’s ‘How we cantered to the Premier League title against all the odds’ memoir. Rather, I hope to give a flavour of what brings a reasonably disparate group together to play the beautiful game.

In hindsight, deciding to play football this year probably wasn’t so much of a big decision to make. Playing again has reminded me that, in many ways, I feel most at home on a football pitch – no matter where it is or who’s with me.

Regardless of whether the game has a league title as the prize or simply a lift to the Phoenix game waiting at the end of it, when the ref blows their whistle the old competitiveness stirs in the gut and the rest of the world can just pipe down and sit still: there’s goals to be scored and three points to be put on the table. One-nil down at the half when you probably should have been two-up, like last weekend? Grit your teeth, don’t let any more in, and find a way to unpick the defence (which, if you were wondering, we did, for a most satisfying 2-1 win).

Any off-field worries or frustrations are put on hold when I pull my boots on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for a cup final or an early season fixture; if I’ve got a rectangle of grass (or, as I’ve found is the case for many Wellington pitches, artificial turf), a ball at my feet, and ten people wearing the same badge as I and eleven wearing a different one then I know I’m in the right place. Even if I don’t yet know enough about Wellington to point it out on a map.

Categories: Diary of a Social Footballer

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Ella Reilly

Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.

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