Me, playing football? On gravel? In a minus 4 air temperature and a fifteen knot wind? With my reputation?
Well, yes, I did. And, startlingly, I enjoyed it too. No-one took it too seriously, which is, I think, what put me off last time I played (aged 10 at junior school – I went to one of those secondary schools that thought that gentlemen played rugby). I’ll now put on my best sports-journalist voice…
Great excitement greeted the announcement of the first match of the 2005/6 season. Assembling at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon, the intrepid teams assembled on the apron in front of the aircraft hangar. No jumpers for goalposts here – the formidable team of Dan Smale and Damien Carson scaled a shipping container behind the hangar to retrieve two battered but serviceable goals and a pile of marker cones. With the pitch laid out, the teams were assembled. A brief suggestion of “picking teams, like in school” gave way to “winterers vs summerers” meaning that the closely-honed team spirit of the outgoing winterers with anti-freeze in their blood was to be pitched against the daring young challengers, full of fresh vegetables and enthusiastic optimism. The wintering team started one player short, but were quickly reinforced by the late arrival of Simon Herniman a few minutes into the game. “The Herminator” gave added vigor and pace to the already animated game, and soon goals were scored and the teams began to come together. A few memorable moments – Dan Smale’s deft dribbling leading to a string of quick-fire goals; Donald Campbell’s arrival in the second half, bringing with it some dramatic midfield action and the tackle that lead to Lowri Bowen and Matt Brown colliding head-on and landing on the gravel in a tangle of limbs, surprised but unhurt.
After 45 minutes play the winterers were 8-6 up, despite the summers having six players to their five. A cry of “next goal wins” went up and the teams redoubled their efforts to score. At the end the winterers smacked the ball into the back of the net, sealing the fate of the contest between vitamins and cameraderie.
Wintering team: Matt Brown (dive officer), Mike Tattersfield (plumber), Jo Coldron (doctor), Dan Smale (marine biologist), Simon Herniman (GA)
Summering team: Claire Hughes (oceanographer), Lowri Bowen (doctor), Donald Campbell (weather forecaster), Pat McGoldrick (Base Commander, Halley), Damien Carson (geochemist), Riet van der Velde (chef), Michael Prior-Jones (comms manager). Not all the summer team played at the same time – Lowri replaced Riet and Donald only played in the second half.