- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Matthew Handley
While the persistent wind and rain has seen the majority of summer sports schedule postponed with cricket and tennis captains frustrated, one major sporting event managed to get into full flow in the first week of term. Tucked away in the sports hall at Iffley Road, the annual football 5-a-side competition got underway.
Colleges can enter up to three teams which are each placed into groups, a system which has the potential to pit the likes of Worcester 1s up against a college third team. However, in the tight 5-a-side arena upsets abound.
Wide participation is encouraged by allowing each squad to have ten players, the idea being that most people who want to, can be involved. Matches are short but intense, consisting of two five minutes halves. Furthermore, the head height rule encourages a quick and technical passing style of play, in which teams must press and battle for space.
This has led to games where the usual tactic of hoofing the ball to the tall striker is replaced by a flowing, almost Barcelona-like style, arguably even more interesting than winter football. The fact that no one from OxStu has to spend ninety minutes in the cold watching Magdalen and Exeter fight out a 0-0 draw only adds to our enjoyment.
College football heavyweights such as Cuppers-winning Worcester or Premier League winning Wadham will certainly fancy their chances. However, 5-a-side football is a long way from 11-a-side. The pace of the games is relentless, and a good number of rolling subs is a prerequisite. A good first touch and quick feet are perhaps the most important attributes in a format which allows a player very little space and very little time. As such, the likes of Exeter, who succeeded in the Premier League through marauding powerhouses in midfield and defence, may come unstuck against a physically smaller but quicker and technically adept St Anne’s team.
The margins for qualification out of the group have also been demonstrably small. Hertford 1s, having won two and lost one went into their last match needing the beat St Anne’s to qualify. They proceeded to bag the early goal and shut out St Anne’s for the rest of the game, dominating possession and limiting their opponent to pot shots. However, a goal in the last five seconds which trickled agonisingly past the goalkeeper off a deflection left honours even and Hertford out of the competition on goal difference. In fourth week, once all the group matches have been played the competition enters its knockout phase where talk of small margins will become increasingly pertinent.
Football is one of the most widely and enthusiastically played sports in the university and the competition can be seen as a great way of slightly extending the football calendar (as well as relieving some pre-exam stress). And perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t need to be warm and sunny to play.