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WE’RE SERIOUS ABOUT FOOTBALL

Hundreds of players, years of underachievement, the world’s most popular sport and with the big varsity men’s Rugby matchup cancelled after a fiasco on Gower Street, is this year football’s chance to take the crown?

 

Over at Roar, we like to do our best to put a spotlight on as many sports teams as possible as often as we can. King’s is lucky to have dozens of different sports under our roof and I enjoy talking to lots of different people about what they’re passionate about, but it’s clear some have more pull than others – and football is clearly one of those. I came to the realisation that I knew very little about how the world’s most popular sport was doing on the Strand so I decided it was worth investigating.

 

To find out more, I met with the society’s vice president and media officer to talk about the society-at-large and see what I’d been missing out on. Clearly, it was a lot. KCLFC have six teams of varying level, of which only one has weekly training. Each team has around 20 players each (players shift a lot to fill gaps here and there, squads are in no way set in stone) and all play in Wednesday and Saturday leagues under the BUCS umbrella. Only the first team has a coach, so every other level relies on their captain to not only take charge of game day motivation but also responsibility for organising referees and pitch allocation.

 

The team all call the Berrylands, three football pitches in South-West London, their second home (after the Vault of course) and share that much as they share their socials. While the committee itself is tight-knit, they make sure the cogs keep turning and otherwise each team is given the responsibility to look after itself and make sure everything is in order. The two blokes across from me were clearly very proud of this big family they were a part of and they struck me as anything but the raucous and reckless type stereotypically associated with football lads – they cared about the game and just wanted to make sure everyone there was enjoying themselves.

 

However, while they repeated that the first team was in no way cut off from the rest of the pack, they admitted to a large degree of pride everyone found in the first team and its success- notably last year’s treble of the Macadam Cup, Wednesday League and Varsity. On a cold Monday morning a few weeks later, meeting with first-team coach Alan Sellers and first-team captain Edoardo Latini, I thought asking about the treble would be the best way to kick us off. “I wouldn’t call that the treble” Alan said, “just a treble”, Edoardo agreed. (The real treble would be their Saturday league, Saturday cup and Varsity).

 

If Will and Ben came across as passionate, Alan and Edoardo appeared to be something more- they were serious. They could do better than the impressive precedent they set last year and both expected the team to do so. Alan told me about how when he applied to be first team coach, he looked through the records and found the team to be underperforming, having not won a cup or league in 10 years – something that doesn’t make sense for a squad of this calibre. Edoardo explained that “the culture changed after Alan joined […] there’s a different mentality now”.

 

Alan’s brought with him a winning culture rooted in a distinct footballing identity – being compact and delaying the opposition in the second third before letting the attack take over. He described the incredible dedication everyone had to fitness, both in pre-season as well as over the break (“a second pre-season for us”) and made it very clear that he wanted to create an environment where he can focus on the development of individual players as well as the success of the team. There’s a deep feeling of reciprocity between the players, who dedicate a lot of their week and their Friday night sobriety to the team, and Alan, who spends many late hours preparing for matches – including the detailed team sheet with individual instructions and set piece tactics every player gets 48h before a match.

 

So what about this year, is it any different? For Alan, “it’s like the second album”- having to prove that you mean business after last year’s success. He admitted that while last year’s quality set the standard, it wasn’t hard to take the team from zero to hero considering the squad they had. However, going into this year they lost half the team, their two top scorers, their captain and their best defender. The squad is arguably better this year, the psychological aspect just has to get better- “the team this year is a lot quieter, there aren’t as many strong characters”.

 

However, as Edoardo explained, the team has really become a band of brothers fast. In a recent fixture, they trailed 2-0 going into the closing minutes, yet they never lost their cool and pulled through for a 3-2 win. “We don’t leave anyone behind and we work for each other”- the difference this year is that the team now has a DNA and a standard to hold themselves to, a standard they know very well they can supersede. “From now on, all games are finals for us” both Edoardo and Alan said – “especially Varsity”.

Collector of Tesco clubcard points.
Twitter.com/louisjacques_

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