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Blood, sweat and Chai Pani: The highs and lows of intramural football

‘That means you haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of [intramural] football’ - Archie Andrews, Riverdale

By Andrew McNey, Third Year, History

‘That means you haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of [intramural] football’

- Archie Andrews, Riverdale

Intramural sport at Bristol has no doubt been one of the biggest influences on my experience at university, and rightly so. Looking back on my long career of Sunday league fixtures in youth teams, where parents curse at referees half their age, I would have to say that intramural football stands out.

It possesses something that has so far been unrivalled by any other football experience that has graced my 20 years of age.

Although it may not be as glamorous as playing for The University, there is one thing that intramural football possesses in abundance; passion. Passion is what drives this culture of football at Bristol, passion is what gets the hungover student out of bed on a Wednesday afternoon and passion is what makes intramural football so special.

A passion for the sport and love for the team you represent is why I continue to play without referees, why I am happy to settle a penalty decision on a game of rock, paper, scissors and is why I witness my team captain planning possible formations in the last Tuesday lecture every week before gameday.

Intramural football club Riverside Blues | Epigram / Jasmine Brook

To understand my relationship with intramural we must start, as every good story does, at Fresher’s Week. Sharing the desire to play football at university, me and my flatmate had set our alarms for the morning of the try-outs for The University football team, however having spent much of the week being exposed to Bristol’s nightlife it came as no surprise when both of us slept through three sets of alarms.

Still determined to play football we looked for other options, until we discovered intramural. Somewhat sceptical, but hopeful of what the camaraderie on the team’s Facebook group seemed to suggest, I boarded the number 3 bus to the Downs.

I was initially surprised not just at the quality of football, but also at the level of commitment to what I had presumed to be just a casual mid-week league. Within my first 3 weeks of intramural football an ambulance had been called, one player had been carried off of the pitch and the first social had claimed its victims.

I learnt much in my first year, one lesson being that the loudest substitute bench won any decision, courtesy of the lack of referees. However, most importantly I learnt what intramural was.

This wasn’t just a casual league for those who couldn’t make it to the big leagues of university football, it was a community of like-minded students who would seemingly die for their respective teams.

There are moments of that first year of football I will never forget; drawing to my accommodation’s side, thrashing my flatmate’s team or the reception of the tremendous Garet stapler jelly presented by ‘La Masia’ at the Christmas social in Chai Pani.

However, it was time for something new in my intramural career, something different. It was now time for the big move.

Unbeknown to my own team and its captain, conversations had already broken down with the captain of my accommodation’s side, who we had drawn to at the beginning of the season. Plans had been unveiled for this 1st year accommodation team to evolve into a larger club with a greater future and I wanted to be a part of it.

As tough as it was breaking the news of my transfer to the captain of the team I had spent my first year with, I was excited to get involved with a new side.

The second year of my intramural football career delivered all that I could have expected and more. Entering an entirely new team  into the intramural football leagues carried with it a sense of ownership and belief. A shared faith in the possibilities of this new club would bode well for its future.

Not only did we win a few games; we competed in our first international fixture, delighted in a broad selection of very varied and creative socials, enjoyed a formal awards evening, secured a kit sponsor, designed our own club badge, gained a substantial following on our club Instagram page, exhibited multiple kit reveals, and were even presented the ‘Spirit of Intramural’ Award at the University of Bristol Sports Awards Evening.

The growth of this club in this year not only embodies the passion that surrounds intramural sport and those who play it, but it undoubtedly shaped my second year at university.

With many more plans for the future I, accompanied by the members of the club, remain optimistic about  intramural and am excited to return to the Downs for another year of quality mid-week football.

The upcoming year seems very promising, with the organisation of an intramural cup and I’m sure the same passionate spirit that it harnesses year after year. I am but one among the many students who await eagerly for the return of the drizzly Wednesday afternoons on that hallowed turf and the promise it holds for a chance at fame and glory. It is unknown what the next year of hungover, yet passionate, football holds for the teams of intramural but it will surely be great things.

Featured: Epigram / Jasmine Brook

Interested in joining an intramural sports team? Get involved via the Bristol SU website