Wherever you live in the UK, whether that be the North, the South, or if you’re unfortunate enough to come from the Midlands, there are an increasing number of charity football matches being held as fundraisers for local charities. With The Zuri Project Uganda being registered officially just over a year ago, the 29th May saw our first ever, unique, charity football match.
The ‘Light-Bulb’ Moment
I have been volunteering for The Zuri Project Uganda for just over a year now – pretty much since we became officially registered. At that time, I was helping Martin with little odd jobs and running the Instagram page. Myself and Martin worked together at DGCOS and HIES, which is predominately where we spent most of our lunches talking all things Zuri (amongst other things). It was on one of these lunch breaks we toyed with the idea of running a charity football match to raise awareness of The Zuri Project Uganda. Now, if you don’t already know Martin, then I’ll need to point out a few characteristics which will become apparent to the event shortly. First of all, he’s extremely ambitious, he’s very enthusiastic, he loves anything to do with fitness, particularly endurance sports/activities, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep. Which brings me back to the discussion of the charity football match. Whilst I was more than happy to help organise a football event, Martin wanted more. He wanted something unique. He wanted a marathon football match! So, it was from Martin’s ambition and passion that I’m sat here – watching the Euro’s – writing up how we held our first ever ‘Marathon Football Match’.
In November 2015, we experienced our first ever Zuri Conference Call. This involved all ambassadors and our two Co-Founders. During this call, we opened up our idea to the group about our marathon football match. Not surprisingly, we received a positive and supportive reception from everyone on the call. In fact, it was on this call that we recruited Becky as co-organiser. It was Becky’s suggestion to hold the match at Brinscall Village Junior FC. So, with groups approval and the location decided on, Becky and myself were all set to being organising the Zuri’s first ever marathon football match.
First things first, we had to decide how long would the marathon match would last. Our very own Co-Founder Ross, had previously participated in a marathon match which lasted 12 hours. For our first event, we thought 12 hours might be a little much, although this is definitely something we haven’t ruled out for the future. In the end, we settled for a modest 8 hours. A decision was made to split the 8 hours into 40 minute intervals with 5 minutes break between each interval.
We then moved on to the players and the structure of recruiting enough participants for the full 8 hours. Thanks to Becky, her Dad and brothers, Brinscall Village FC were 100% committed to getting as many players as possible. Likewise for myself, playing at Eccleston & Heskin FC, I had manged to get a few of the lads to support our event. With numbers picking up, we planned to keep the match structure as close to a typical game as possible: two large squads, two captains, two managers and one score separating the two teams.
As we entered 2016, the plans for the event were fully underway. With a confirmed date of the 29th May and a definite ‘all-clear’ on the location, we grew more and more excited to get players involved and increase the awareness of the event. With that said, we contacted our trusty Graphic Designer, Charlie Brown (genuine name), to help us come up with a banner design which perfectly reflected the event and captured the eye of those who drove past. It’s worth adding now, after the event, we had many families and locals come to support the event solely because of our banner. So for that, we are immensely grateful to Charlie. Whilst on the topic of marketing, we were extremely fortunate enough to have our own bibs made with the Zuri Project’s logo for the event. Brinscall Village JFC not only provided us with the facilities, they went above and beyond and supported the event by offering the bibs as a donation – we would have been lost without their generosity.
Brinscall Village JFC and Parbold Douglas Academy Primary School
At the onset of organising, and leading up to the event, we had created a group email thread to keep all ambassadors informed. But additionally, this allowed us to communicate our ideas and accumulate feedback for what had been arranged so far. Within our group of Ambassadors, we have two teachers, Becky Kealey and Jo Eccles (My better half) both of whom came up with the idea to include a children’s football game at the event. We toyed with a few suggestions as to who could be incorporated, but finally decided to include both Parbold Douglas Academy and Brinscall Village Junior FC. Both parties are already involved with The Zuri Project Uganda, so we saw it very fitting for them to have the opportunity to Kick Off the marathon match.
The Big Day
Bank Holiday Weekend, Sunday the 29th May, 2016 – The Zuri’s first ever marathon football match. The day had arrived and we were incredibly lucky with the weather. Maybe in fact, a little too lucky. I think there were a few sunburnt faces the following day. But all worth it of course for an amazing Charity. Just before we had set up, I couldn’t believe it – we had suggested the idea of holding a football match the best part of a year ago, and now it was here. All 8 hours of it.
The teams were ready. Kanungu XI – captained by Simon Blackledge and Botogota XI – captained by Dale Vardy. Brinscall Village JFC and Parbold Douglas were prepared and ready to kick the match off. We had BBQs ready for the burgers. Small kids games alongside the pitch. An Ice-cream van scheduled for just after lunch. The club’s bar would open early afternoon. We had organised for a set of speakers to be playing in conjunction with game. We also thought to organise for a couple of student physiotherapists to help us out. With every last detail planned we were ready!
The event was a great success, even more so than we could have imagined. We managed to raise a staggering total of £835 – which is still so overwhelming even typing this. The two children’s teams were fantastic and played some great football. They kicked the 8 hours off with a bang! The atmosphere was what you’d expect of a perfect summers day – jovial, full of laughter and everyone loved getting involved. We ended up with a great mix of players, age ranging from 8 years old, right through to mid-forties. By the end of the 8 hours we were all shattered, but with huge smiles on our faces – I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
During the organisation of the event, I was extremely overwhelmed to see how many people offered to help myself and Becky. Particularly I would like to just say a massive thank you again to Becky and Becky’s family and all those involved with Brinscall Village JFC, Ged and Anne Whewell (Martin’s parents), my parents, the student physio’s from The University of Bolton and most importantly, to all those who took part to make the day so special. Here’s to next year!
Chris Hogan @cjhogan8