Along with other members of my church, I attended the National Christian Football Festival (NCFF) 2007. This is a yearly event organised by Ambassadors in Sport, and I’ve been for the last couple of years. As we’re a bit of a motley crew who don’t play 11-a-side together, we usually meet with somewhat limited success. In fact, the Fair Play award is the only award we’ve been likely to win. Things changed a bit this year though…
As anyone who’s been in the UK for the last few months will know, the weather has been unseasonably awful; this last week’s been no exception. The pitches we play on at the NCFF are owned by Manchester University who have other events to host this summer. After the first half-day session on Saturday, it was decided that if the pitches were to survive another few tournaments, we’d have to cancel ours.
We were all ready to go home on Saturday night, and in fact a few did. The rest of us, however, stayed for Saturday night – we went out for a curry and I learned how to play poker (beating everyone else in fact and now being the proud owner of a lot of matchsticks!) On Sunday morning we were informed that this year’s tournament was to be resurrected in the guise of 5-a-side at the JJB Soccerdome near the Trafford Centre. The pitches there have ‘3rd generation’ synthetic surfaces which are grass-like.
28 teams entered, with those teams who had not gone home simply splitting their squad in half and registering two teams. We, therefore, had two teams. I, despite being 26, was one of the older players in the squad, so went with the ‘oldies’. We ended up doing a little better than our younger counterparts. There were 7 teams in each group on 4 pitches and we all played each other once. We won 4 matches and drew 2. We ended up top of our group, and I scored 2 goals – one of which was a cracker.
We therefore ended up top of our group and qualified for the semi-finals. What I haven’t told you so far is that there are actually two tournaments run side-by-side at the NCFF: one for ‘affiliated’ teams (i.e. those who play together regularly in a league) and ‘non-affiliated’ teams (i.e. those who don’t, like us). We had beaten some affiliated teams in the group stage, but unfortunately in the semi-final we met the team who ultimately went on to win the tournament. They were excellent and hammered us 4-0 and also hit the post twice, all in the space of 5 minutes. We were suitably impressed.
Despite the setbacks, it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. The lads were in high spirits despite the double dampener of the weather and the cancellation of the original schedule. It just goes to show what can happen when a bunch of Christians get together… 🙂