When all’s said and done, football is just a game. Two teams kicking a ball about is as rudimentary a past-time as it gets, however loudly the Champions League anthem may blare out. However much one tries to distill it to its simplest form though, there are powerful effects of playing the game that stretch far beyond the pitch.
Tuesday Night Football Eastbourne was set up two years ago as a group for men to play a weekly football game with a community spirit. They have discovered the benefits of opening their doors by cultivating a collective of like-minded souls. It isn’t just on the pitch once a week that they have worked hard to use football as a medium for positivity, as we found out.
What is your setup all about? How does it work?
Very simply we hire a nine-a-side pitch that is split into two halves with goals and play three small-sided games over an hour. The guys sign up to a list that goes live via whatsapp at 9pm on a Sunday night, when we hit the set number we have a reserve list for any dropouts. Each player pays a fiver for a guaranteed hour of football.
How many people are involved in all?
We started out with around 12 and now have well over 40 people who play on a regular basis. Our weekly turnout is around 28, but we have had up to 34. That was very interesting, like a forest of legs.
How long have you been doing this?
We started in January 2018 following a successful 14 week programme with MANvFAT, so it will be our second birthday this month.
You say you welcome all ages and all abilities – how testing has this mantra been??
It really hasn’t been an issue; everyone knows our core values, and it is genuinely a brilliant atmosphere. Yes people get competitive but they also know we don’t stand for nonsense. On the rare occasion it has got a bit over the top we have stepped in, had words and sorted it out, a few people have dropped out. But that is the nature of it and it’s a very organic process with new players coming in all the time.
How important do you think it is to give something back in terms of charity or providing a social service? Do you have any plans for any fundraising?
We have already held one event in aid of Sands UK in August and raised over £1700, and we have booked our next event for 9 May 2020 which will be in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and Football United Against Dementia. The final details are yet to be confirmed but it will involve 11-a-side game/s, raffle, and other entertainment.
We are also in talks with FootballKitbox.com to make some bespoke shirts for the charities and release on general sale. We would like to do other things as well like sport quizzes etc. However we need sponsors to help us achieve this and get our promotional bits out.
To what extent do you think there is enough investment in football facilities for amateur players, such as five-a-side pitches and grass pitches for Sunday league teams?
Minimal at best. Through Twitter we have linked up with numerous non-league and grassroot teams and they have barely played. I want to start a campaign to get a 3G pitch in every town, with lights, so people can play football safely on a good quality pitch.
What are the biggest challenges you find from running a team like this?
Getting the equipment sorted, making sure people keep to the core values and ethos and the amount of time on social media etc – that drives the wife mad…
What have been the most satisfying successes so far?
The fact we have had a couple of off-shoots in a nearby town, and that we are soon to be affiliated with the FA at a Mars Just Play Centre. The best thing we have done though is the charity day, and given guys a space to be guys and release stresses and strains, if only for an hour.
Describe how important the social aspect of your team is.
It is important as for me it is the only guaranteed time I have to get out of the house and be a bloke and not worry about the normal pressures of life. Also for me to be able to play football again is amazing as I hadn’t played for years due to injury; now this has given me the opportunity to again. We have become a band of brothers in a way and I can honestly say this is the most enjoyable football I have ever been involved in.
A fundraising page will be set up nearer the 9 May event by Tuesday Night Football Eastbourne that will feature CONIFA’s Chagos Islands national team and Supporting Charities Football Club. You can visit Sands UK (Stillborn and Neonatal Death charity), Prostate Cancer UK and Football United Against Dementia now to find out more about supporting their causes.