Monday 5th December 2022 20:00 (ish!)
Somali British Champions League- Group A
HILLTOP 2 (Yislam 14 A Mohamed 64p)
O.I.R. FC 0
Att 126 at Ark Elvin Academy, Cecil Avenue, Wembley
I tend to have two pieces of advice on the odd occasion I get for groundhopping tips. One is to go “weird” early and the other is to never rule anything out until you’ve tried it. Of course the fact that I’m now at a point where finding a floodlit tick within a 2 hour drive from Oxford midweek does tend to force creativity on you!
The Somali British Champions League has existed for clubs with a significant Somali membership since 2018, and while the competition did start with just London-based clubs there are now clubs entering from Wales and the Midlands. The format is as you’d expect, a Group stage played as mini leagues, then knock-out rounds to find an overall winner. Moreover, Hilltop won the competition in 2019/20.
What made this interesting to the hopper’s eye was the unusual location, Hilltop may have their roots in Hilltop Road, Stonebridge, but they play their Combined Counties League Premier North games at the Middlesex Stadium best known for being Hillingdon Borough’s home. Here with no ground gradings to worry about they simply booked a convenient pitch and floodlights, albeit one with quite a backdrop!
Another point of interest was the programme, please don’t think you’ll get a programme at every Somali League game. This was produced very much with the encouragement of the hoppers, and I hope Hilltop thought it worthwhile, certainly virtually all of the copies were bought by groundhoppers.
The opposition was provided by Enfield-based O.I.R. or Oasis Rovers if you’d prefer, and no I have no idea what the “I” stands for. In Saturday football they ply their trade in the Step 7 Middlesex County League, Premier Division, so nominally at least there was a 2-division gap to ponder. In the end the tie went the way of the form book, but that really doesn’t do the evening justice.
Whenever I do something out of the ordinary, I look for the pay-off, something that will make it all memorable. Here, other than the chance to catch up with two-dozen hoppers was the chance to observe the Somali diaspora at leisure. At the times it teetered on the edge the chaotic, but it was as fun as it was vibrant. And other than the groundhopper’s insatiable need for a new tick, what more could you need?