Do you believe in coincidences? Well, I do now! I was recently going through my old notes about various unusual traditions and customs in search for a subject for this month’s issue when I came across some work I’d previously written on Swamp Football.
Then the following day I was reading my morning paper when I saw the headline ‘Swamp Soccer World Cup’ with a photograph of a girl trying to play football in a sea of squelchy mud.
The third coincidence, would you believe, was that I had been watching some of the games of the 2014 Football World Cup from Brazil on the television about the same time, that is until England were eliminated from the competition. So, Swamp Football just had to be part of my next article.
While I was thinking what to write about this particular subject I kept hearing the words of that well known song by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann who, in the 1950’s, wrote comic songs with titles such as The Gas Man Cometh, A G-nu, and A Transport of Delight about London buses. But I’m sure many of our older readers will remember that their most popular song was called The Hippopotamus Song which has that well known line:
“So follow me, follow,
Down to the hollow
And there let us wallow
In glorious mud.”
So what is Swamp Soccer? It is very similar to football except that the playing surface or pitch is about the size of a five a side football pitch. It is important that the field is flooded prior to the games then a herd of cows, or something similar, is allowed to trample the surface before the matches begin in order to get a really good sticky and muddy field. Sometimes a JCB digger is used to churn up the ground and then level it out by means of a Rotavator. The match consists of two halves, each lasting 12 minutes. The S.F Association provides the match officials for referees and linesmen.
Teams will consist of a goalkeeper and five outfield players. Teams can be either men’s or women’s but teams of mixed players must have a minimum of at least two female players. Several teams will enter a competition and the winner will be decided on a knockout basis. It is a light-hearted affair and teams are often asked to appear in fancy dress. There are also many other rules which are similar to those used in normal football competitions.
Swamp Soccer is said to be increasingly popular on a global scale and in the last three years it has been taken up by China, Turkey, India and many other European countries. The recent Swamp Soccer World Cup was played on the wetlands near Dunoon, Argyll, in Scotland in June this year.
Swamp Soccer originated in the swamp lands of Finland and was conceived as a good way of training people for cross country skiing. The first organised championship was held in 1998 and later came to Scotland where it has since been played in various suitable areas.
Spectators are always welcome and there is no entrance fee or car parking charge. In the grounds of the farm where the competitions are being played there is often a fairground especially for the young spectators. A camp site for teams and visitors is available for people who come from other parts of the country.
In this year’s competition there were many hundreds of spectators. The organisers said that this year’s competition was a tremendous success and the pitch was probably the wettest and stickiest they had ever experienced.
Continuing with my theme of mud and swamps, my second unusual event is about the sport of ‘Bog Snorkelling.’ It began in 1976 near Llanwrytd Wells, in Wales. Competitors must complete two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench cut through a peat bog in the shortest possible time.
Competitors must wear snorkels and flippers and complete the course without using conventional swimming strokes, relying on flipper power only. The length of the trench is 60 yards or 55m. The record time is 1minute 23.13 seconds which is approximately three miles per hour. The first championship was held in 1985 and takes place every August Bank
holiday. There were more than 200 entrants in last year’s event with competitors coming from all over the world.
As well as the serious competitions there are races for the best fancy dress and other similar races. The event takes place at the Waen Rhydd bog near to the town and proceeds from the
championship go to a local charity each year.
Bog Snorkelling has become very popular and now takes place in other countries such as Ireland, Australia and Sweden and it has even been combined with mountain bike racing
and swimming in a Triathlon event.
So if you haven’t decided where to go for your next holiday why not try something different and go to Dunoon in Scotland in June for the Swamp Soccer and then go on to Llanwrtyd
Wells in Wales in August and have a go at Bog Snorkelling. The children will love it and so will you especially if you are a complete masochist.