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Shrove Tuesday Football Festival

Shrove Tuesday Football Festival Photo

Photo by catsholiday

Posted on February 20, 2012 in Best of Travel

As Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday roll around, celebrations take place around the world to celebrate the start of the Lenten season. While most people think of parades, debauchery, and beads, many other kinds of festivals commemorate these holidays. Many people in the US associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, as it hosts one of the most popular parties for Fat Tuesday. In Rio de Janeiro, Carnival lets you unwind before Lent.

However, not every celebration that takes place involves crazy parade floats and daiquiris. IgoUgo member catsholiday recalls a very different tradition for Shrove Tuesday in the town of Ashbourne, UK. Rather than a party, a rubgy-like game is played, spread throughout the entire town. Shrovetide Football is an annual event that draws in many spectators and participants alike.

“The origin of the rather strange game is unknown but it has been going for many hundreds of years, possibly for over 1,000 years as there are records of it being played in the 12th century. The young enthusiasts train for months to get fit enough to be able to cope with the rigours of the game. The rules once the ball is in play are few and the numbers on each team are unlimited but there is usually a hard core of toughies actually getting into the full hands on activity with many other followers who may or may not ever get near the ball. Everyone and anyone can join in but there are basically two teams, the Up’ards and Down’ards . You are born into your team depending on which side of the Henmore brook you were born on. This small river runs through the centre of the town and is obviously one of the main places that the ball, and people, end up in during the game. The Up’ards are born north of the river and the Down’ards south of the river.

A speech is made before the start of the game.

The entire town centre is shut for the two days and for a few days before you can see the shops boarding up their glass fronts. The crowd begins to get more and more excited until finally a group of people, one carrying the ball, are allowed through the crowd to get to the brick stand at one end of the car park. This stand has two union Jacks flying and is high enough to be able to see it from the back of the crowd. The important person, Prince Charles did this one year, gives a bit of a speech which no-one. but the couple of rows in front of the stand can hear. Then the crowd sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ followed by ‘God save the Queen’ then the ball is thrown into the crowd and the fun begins.

The rules in this game are quite short, the main rules which must be followed are:

One of the stones marking the goal.

• No trespassing on other people’s property.
• The ball must not go into the churchyards, Memorial gardens or building sites.
• You must not intentionally cause harm to others.
• The ball must not be hidden from view in bags or rucksacks.
• The ball must not be transported in a motorised vehicle.
• A ball is goaled when it is tapped three times onto one of the stone plinths. If it is goaled before 5pm then another ball may be thrown up.
• Play ends at 10pm and the ball is returned to the Green Man public house.

One person alone cannot score a goal he needs to be hoisted up out of the river so that he can touch a stone circle with the ball. There have to be official Shrovetide committee witnesses to this goal scoring so some of them at least have to be fit enough to keep up with the main hub of fit players in the game. I am sure it has become obvious that to play in the game you must be prepared to get very wet and muddy so you hope for a nice sunny day but more often not that it is drizzly and wet. Oh yes I forgot to mention that the goals are actually three miles apart, the Up’ards goal is in Sturston on private property while the ‘Down’ard’s goal is in Clifton. The teams always go for their own team goal and they don’t ever change.

The game in progress-searching for the ball.

Yes indeed anyone can play but you may have gleaned from reading this that it is not some mamby pamby game. You have to be very fit and tough otherwise you will risk injuring yourself. Over the years as far as I am aware there have been no deaths but there have been lots of broken limbs and even more bruised and battered bodies. You don’t just kick the ball to each other so in this way it is far more like a ‘free for all ‘rugby game than a football game. Once the ball is ‘turned up’ into the ‘hub’ then those playing just dive in without a care. We watched several people just crowd surfing then diving down so all you could see were their feet sticking up out of the mass. I am quite certain my head would not be down amongst everyone else’s feet! I remember one year when my son and his mates were still at school, one of his friends lost his shoe in the hub and he continued to play for an hour or so with just one show but luckily he then found another shoe that someone had lost, unfortunately it was the wrong foot but he wore it anyway.”

More things to do in New Orleans
More things to do in Rio de Janeiro
More things to do in Ashbourne

Posted by jhartmann13 (JJ Hartmann)


Comment by Toinette on February 23, 2012

Here at CABOT SQUARE in Montreal, Canada named after the navigator

we all know, who arrived here a bit before Jacques Cartier. On the 25th of May

1935 the Italians of Canada offered to the city of Montreal a monument of

Giovanni Caboto. . . this in bronze.....the work of Montrealer Guido Casini.

This on Cabot Street. This is part of our carnival flow too. We remember!

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