Saturday, 21 February 2015

Aberford Albion and American Samoa

Today I watched two teams beginning with ‘a’. First up: step 8 Aberford Albion from a village south of Wetherby who were playing Kippax in the Leeds & District Cup (5-1, attendance 17). The appeal of the game was that it was on the route of bike ride I was doing with my son and, moreover, the club play at the railed off Bunkers Hill pitch beside some Gothic mid-19th century almshouses.

I’d often wondered if it was possible to photograph  some action with the almshouses as a scenic backdrop. Assisted by leafless trees and sunshine it is – as these pics show. I had to wait an age for the ball to come down to the right end for a close-up, though as Aberford dominated and they were kicking in the other direction. Ain’t that always the way? Later we called in on Bardsey from the same league hoping to see the end of their match but I must’ve read the fixtures wrong as there was no-one there. Still, at least I didn’t end up at a bowling green like I did on a previous West Yorkshire League outing ...

In the evening we watched Next Goal Wins. Released last spring, the DVD tells the story of American Samoa’s attempt to qualify for the last World Cup, 10 years on from being beaten 31-0 by Australia in the biggest international drubbing of all-time. Coming into the pre-qualification tournament Samoa had lost all 30 games in the preceding 17 years and scored just twice. Seeing highlights of games against the likes of the Cook Islands is intriguing in itself but the film is about much more than that. It’s about the universal themes of self-belief, inspiration, and progress. There are two sub-plots: one about the need for Samoa’s Dutch manager to come to terms with the death of his daughter eight years previously and another about the experience of Samoa’s transgender player.

As the credits roll and captions pop up explaining what happened next to the protagonists you have to remind yourself that you’ve been watching a documentary rather than a reconstruction. Next Goals Wins gives you a warm glow and puts a smile on your face. It’s the ultimate real feel-good sports film and should be mandatory clubhouse viewing for teams the world over – from Real Madrid to, well, Aberford Albion and beyond.

Taking on the badgers: Aberford had huge problems at the start of the season. They spent £2,000 improving the pitch then burrowing badgers came along and ruined it causing multiple postponements. You can see where all the holes have been filled in.

Groundhopping by bike: To follow my bike ride see my other blog. I’m planning to mark the end of the Northern League season by cycling along disused railway lines to four clubs in Co Durham ending up by watching one of them, Esh Winning, against champions elect, Seaham Red Star. What a treat. To finish here is a pic of the front of those almshouses.

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