Monday 20 November 2017

Thousands at Shrovetide showdown

The traditional Shrovetide game sees players attempt to score in goals three miles apart
The traditional Shrovetide game sees players attempt to score in goals three miles apart
People board up shops in preparation for the Shrovetide game
People take part in the traditional Shroventide football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (PA)

Thousands of revellers descended on a small market town to take part in one of the country's oldest "sporting" traditions.

Dozens of shops in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, boarded up their windows in preparation for the annual Royal Shrovetide football game, which usually attracts between 3,000 and 5,000 people to the town.

The annual match sees hundreds of players - called the Up'ards and Down'ards, depending on which side of the River Henmore you were born - take over the town as they grapple wildly in the streets to get their hands on a cork-filled ball.

The aim of the game is to get the ball to the goals, which are three miles apart at Clifton and Sturston, and to score by tapping it three times on the goal post.

Before play got under way from the Shaw Croft car park, players and spectators took part in a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, as is the tradition.

The ball was "turned up" - thrown out to the players - by retired solicitor and lifelong player Jim Boden.

A huge cheer went up from the waiting crowd as the hand-painted ball was launched into the air and the participants thronged towards it to be in with a chance of ferrying it towards their team's goal.

Up'ard Mr Boden, 63, said following in the footsteps of Prince Charles, Brian Clough, Roy McFarland and King Edward VIII was a "quite an honour".

Despite being called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match the game, which takes place on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year, rarely involves kicking the ball and more closely resembles a huge rugby scrum.

This scrum, known locally as the hug, can consist of a couple of hundred players as they push their way through the town, often ending up fighting for possession in the river as they try to get their hands on the ball.

Press Association

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