Why We Love To Play Scottish Amateur Fitba
It can be somewhat hard to digest as you sit shivering between bodies, the sleep barely left your eyes. It’s 9:15 on a damp, cold Saturday morning in November. The setting for this latest misery? Well, last location check on the Sat Nav was some field in deepest, darkest Motherwell (or a derelict Portakabin next to the sodden excuse for a grass park).
13 guys currently share cramped surroundings. There should be 18. Those absent have made the favourable choice and stayed in bed.
A variant mix of conversations can be heard among the weary travellers, such as the match on TV last night or who’s out on the pull on the night ahead. Two more bodies sluggishly troop in, the stale stink of bevvy now joining the room. The gaffer appears at the door, ‘right lads, shorts and socks on!’
A collective groan can now be heard. Time to play then. It’s just another Saturday morning playing amateur football!
There is little in life that can match being part of a local fitba’ team!
To describe this most basic form of eleven-a-side football in Scotland as a religion is not to oversell it. These followers will not be deterred, no matter the weather conditions or the distance required.
Like any form of worship, those that don’t share the same beliefs as these footballers often look in from the outside, baffled and bemused as to what drives these hardy parishioners to keep going back, week after week.
These misunderstood lads share more than just a group shower after every match. They share hope, often a misguided optimism this season will be better than last. They share highs and lows that continue to contradict from one week to the next. They’ll share a pint and a pie after the battle of 90 minutes and from this many go on to share lifelong friendships.
But above all else they share a dressing room!
And it’s a case of what happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room.
The distinctive aroma of deep heat, tiger balm and mouldy kit bags fill the changing room and hijack the nostrils. The established shout of ‘anyone got any tape!’ is a mainstay of any pre-match environment. Tunes blaring in a hollow attempt to intimidate your opponents on the other side of the wall.
This is what it’s like to be part of an amateur family.
Return to action
Up until a fortnight ago, amateur football was taking tepid steps towards a long-awaited return.
As of the first week of October, a few leagues up and down the country had either started or were preparing to kick off in the following weekends.
Then the new restrictions placed on the country were announced by Scotland’s First Minister on Wednesday 7th October, hump day as some call it, and adult contact sport was indeed humped.
With the game now sitting in its very own limbo, with no knowledge if it will return at all for this season, this week we begin our amateur football series. What happened during the summer? Can the game survive? Is anyone concerned about players mental wellbeing? And if it does return, will it be viable to conduct safely in the shadow of a pandemic?