Imperial College Football Club last month held the inaugural Kick 4 Life 5 a-side tournament in Ethos. Elite footballers from across our university were invited to test themselves at the highest level of indoor football, all in the name of raising funds for Kick 4 Life.
The event attracted a diverse range of teams including notorious choke artist Jack Jeffries and his Band of Gentlemen, Ahmed Farag’s Mediterranean Magicians, the Southside Legends led by Phil Meier, Fitsum Degefa’s Wilson Kings, the RAF squadron marshalled by Mike Turrell, ABACUS captained by Matt Wong as well as a Kick 4 Life team doing its best to represent the foundation. Over 2 Sundays in January all of the sides contributed some dazzling football as well as some generous donations culminating with the Wilson Kings coming away as winners of the championship and almost £400 being raised to help increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.
Football has an incredible ability to bring people together, to evoke fierce passion and also to improve lives for the better. You might question the final part of that statement, however through organisations involved in the Development through Football program, organisations like Kick 4 Life which have recognised the amazing power that football has to draw people together. Founded in 2005 the foundation arranges regular football tournaments throughout Lesotho where children of all ages are encouraged to demonstrate their skills while also having access to free HIV education and testing. In a country where being HIV positive is associated with the worst social stigma and often leads to outcast status, Kick 4 Life provide a new perspective for those with and without the disease. By creating an atmosphere of positive peer pressure through bringing people together for sport, they make sure all of the children at their events get themselves tested and that their parents do too. The Development through Football program has changed the lives of so many individuals from Uganda to Cambodia, Palestine to Australia. It is an honour to have helped raised funds which I hope can change the life of at least one person for the better.
As a university football club we carry a lot of responsibility on our shoulders; organising training, matches and social events for more than 120 members. Responsibility takes many forms and when you have the power to contribute something positive for those less fortunate then you have to seize it. Every member of our club loves the game we play, so we took advantage of this to create an event to mirror those held by Kick 4 Life, even involving the NHS to conduct chlamydia testing.
The first week of the event consisted of quick fire round robin matches, dominated by Southside Legends who won all their games with quality performances all round with Justin Whitehouse and Phil Meier looking solid at the back while Mamzi Roshid netted a bag of goals up front. There were some tight affairs though with the Mediterraneans, Wilson Kings and the Kick 4 Life team all looking strong. Moment of the day came when Club Captain Ed Lobb nutmegged Vice Captain Pete Frampton to help the Kick 4 Life team to victory.
The second week of proceedings caused real fireworks. There was controversy as Jack Jeffries Gentlemen were denied a place in the knock-out stages on goal difference only to be thoroughly beaten by ABACUS in the wooden spoon match. More controversy followed in the quarter final match between Wilson Kings and the RAF as Mike Turrell scored an opening goal of questionable legality. The Kings equalised, but captain Fitz missed a last minute penalty sending the game into a sudden death penalty shoot-out. Fitz couldn’t bare to step up again but Alex Rybka could and slotted home sending the Kings through after Mike Turrell’s miss. In the first semi-final, the Kick 4 Life team comfortably saw off a depleted Southside Legends team and began to eye the title.
The second semi-final was much tighter with Ahmed’s Mediterranean Magicians and the Wilson Kings battling it out. It was scrappy and there were few chances but the winner came out of nothing as Sam Rickards drove a left foot shot into the corner to help eke out the victory. The stage was set for an epic final. The Kick 4 Life team coasted to the final, while the Kings had to fight their way through every stage. However the Wilson Kings made sure that the result was never in doubt, racing into a 4 goal lead by half time. Their slick passing game had reached its peak and no team could have lived with them.
There was a modicum of fight left in the Kick 4 Life team as they scraped back a couple of goals but the Kings were just too good, running out 5-2 winners and crowned the inaugural Imperial College Kick 4 Life champions.
I would like to think the tournament was a success, mainly to all the help I received in organising. So I would like to thank all the players, in particular the Captains, who helped me out enormously, thanks to Sim Anandajeyarajah for helping out with the finances, the photographer Jon Gordon, Ed Lobb for his support, the staff at Ethos for generously donating playing time but mostly to the Co-Founder of Kick 4 Life, Steve Fleming, for helping me through the process and for running an amazing project.