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Tuesday 23rd April 2013 ko 18.00

Banbury, District & Lord Jersey League Division Four

G.Y.F.T.I.D. 7 (S Saleh 14 A Williams 22 Ali 27 Robertson 30p 53 80 Vikanis 37p)


Att 16 (head count)

Entry FREE

Nothing for sale

On the face of it a game in the bottom division of a local league, on Pitch 2 of Easington Rec’ in Banbury isn’t the type of game to inspire. Add to the mix that the opposition are the 5th XI of a side rock bottom of the Southern League Central Division, with real money worries, and I did wonder whether we’d get a game at all. A few groundhoppers will read this and think, “Well I don’t do reserve sides,” well my only comment on that would be to state that you missed a real gem this evening.

The Easington district of Banbury is a classic case of a village being swallowed up being up by its larger neighbour. It was first noted in 1279  and was a rural estate attached to the former Calthorpe Manor. Over the years the land was slowly built on to the extent that the 1919 Housing Act was followed by the building of the Easington housing estate of 361 council houses in what was one of the first slum clearance schemes in the country.

Easington Rec’ or Park, if you believe the notice at the entrance is a benefit of that planning, a wide expanse of green, with two football pitches, a children’s play area, and a changing room denuded of its windows. On a warm evening it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours in the company of the Banbury and Lord Jersey League.

Inevitably I had to get one question answered. Yes, you’re probably thinking it too! The answer is Global Youth For Talent In Diversity, and their Twitter biography states that they are “A dynamic organization creating change in the lives of young people.” They are very much the brainchild of Rev Browne, whose quiet authority was an obvious guide to everything his young charges did. GYFTID are a diverse group of people brought together by a love of sport, and it was clear that the whole group pulled together despite obvious differences in race, culture, and experience.

It reminded me of many years ago when I captained my university’s 6th XI. Being the bottom team at college, I got the players no one else wanted, plus those who turned up fancying a game on a Wednesday afternoon. One day I had an away tie, and 3 Asian lads turned up who I’d never seen before. They were dressed “Gangsta” style, in bandanas and tracksuits and on the coach kept themselves to themselves, speaking in Urdu during the journey. Once however they were kitted out and ready to play, everything changed and they were great lads to play alongside and socialize with afterwards. The 19-year-old me learned a valuable lesson that day and I suspect it’s a similar one that the Rev Browne is teaching his young charges.

Except one of them isn’t quite so young. I hope centre half Steve Hatt won’t mind me mentioning his age, he’s 52, and there’s a sparkle in his eye; he clearly loves playing alongside lads half his age. He said, “I don’t mind, I pass the ball, they do the running!”

I enjoyed a chat with stand-in goalkeeper Darius Browne. He’s “Rev’s” son and didn’t mind playing in goal, although he did produce a few saves that did seem to be purely for the spectators, and League Rep’ Paul Harper was serenaded with a few bars of “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone!”

Paul was there to help referee Gino Spiro in his first adult game, and I if Paul hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have noticed. He did well, although Rev Browne’s influence was enough to make sure nothing unsporting could happen. When you live by your principles its easier to influence others by them. Rev chose to name himself as a substitute, and it reminded me of the genesis of another local football club started by another Reverend, the Rev John Scott-Tucker in 1893. That club was Headington United, now Oxford United.

Woodford did their best, but bottom with 4 points all season points to a team playing for nothing more than pride, and they will certainly finish the season with that intact. GYFTID could and should have reached double figures, only profligate finishing in the second half prevented that.

In truth, the game rather petered out as Woodford wilted and GYFTID realised that the hard was work was finished. Of course they play for more than just victory in a mere football match, I was amazed when the players came to me to shake my hand at the final whistle. I strolled back to my car having come to a conclusion. Yes my hosts are gifted, but more than anything else, they’re blessed.