It’s been a whirlwind end to the season at Marple Athletic. As you may know, three of our tribe play each week – Joe for the Under 10s and Max and Louis with the Under 8s.
Earlier this month Joe’s team braved torrential rain to compete in a tournament over in Warrington. They topped their first round group. The toughest opponents were a team called – on the programme – Team Z. Then they adopted another name on the score board, then another at a later point. But let’s just call them Team Z. They were big lads and one boy in particular had a great left foot. The last match in the group ended 0-0, which the boys were really pleased about. It certainly gave them the confidence to beat Mossley Hill, who had become a bit of a bogey team in recent tournaments. But something didn’t seem right.
At the Fleetwood tournament in May three of our boys were effectively accused of being over age. This is a tough call to make in kids football. Fielding players from an older age group is bang out of order. Passports were produced. Apologies were made. We’re a pretty serious club and wouldn’t ever do anything like this. It’s been known for players from a YOUNGER age group to make up the numbers, but never older.
ANYWAY! Our lads reached the final where they met the Team Z again. It was a good game. Marple lost after extra time. There was also this bizarre tournament rule once extra time started whereby a player was removed from each team every minute, starting with the goalkeepers.
To cut a long story Team Z won 3-1. As I said, something wasn’t right. In Under 10s football, if there is ever a problem, it’s usually with the parents. Except in this case there weren’t any. One Mum and a bloke in United shorts were running the team and they were pretty low key. And that, we thought was that. The boys were big and we just took it that they must feed them well in Z land.
Every other team they played that day complained about them. This usually happens when teams lose and there were a few teams present with gobby parents with a lot to say for themselves. The complaint was mainly that the kids looked big.
Anyway, wheels turned, days passed, questions were asked. Answers were received. It turned out that two of their players were 12. One was 14. I said I thought they were big. They were disqualified and Marple Athletic were declared the tournament winners.
At the club presentation night on June 12 we were able to present the trophy to the boys and spring this surprise news on them. The delight on their faces was something to behold.
But get this. Two days later they get beaten in another tournament. One of the kids in the team – a very big lad – was also playing for Team Z. But his mother assured he was 10. And that he has now found a nice new club away from the kind of cheats who would field 12 and 14 year olds.
I have seen a whole new world in my three years of involvement in junior football, but this takes some beating.