Missing Football and the 5K Challenge

I’m missing football. I knew I would but I did not expect it to be at the level where I am constantly having dreams of playing 5 a sides at Portobello Pits, scoring goals and kissing Iain “Yano” Campbell’s bald head for good luck. I’m missing training, I’m missing the dressing room, I’m missing game day, I’m missing dribbling up the wing to take on a full back, I’m missing that full back easily dispossessing me and I’m even missing the groans from the fans which greet this event.

Before this pandemic, being reluctantly informed by your gaffer that you were getting the Saturday off was a moment to rejoice throughout the changing room. The elder statesmen in the dressing room would quickly hash up an itinerary for a traditional team bonding session and the younger members would become as overexcited as a kid getting unlimited access to the chocolate cupboard (or chocolate fridge if you are some kind of animal). After 5 Saturdays in a row off, and plenty more to come, the emotions have flipped 180 and players would give there left bollock to get back out on the pitch. So much so, that many players renowned for their love of football but their disdain for the fitness element have even taken to the 5km challenge.

The ones that used to label players doing extra running as “busy bastards” have now become… well… the “busiest of all bastards”. This challenge seems to have taken over social media with times varying in the minutes from the mid twenties to the mid teens. Constantly on my Twitter feed, I finally succumbed and managed to complete the challenge with a time of 20 minutes and 58 seconds. I gave it absolutely everything, grimacing throughout and blowing out my backside for the duration. I could maybe shave a little bit of time off my record but I think the NHS could do without the extra strain during these tough times.

Don’t think I could go much quicker


With this in mind, I am now very sceptical about some of the times boys are apparently recording. I saw Scotty McLaughlin on Twitter consistently getting mid 18 minutes, having played against him he’s a fairly fit lad, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I also saw Greg Docherty post a score of 17 and a half minutes, as the fittest footballer I have ever seen I will also give him the benefit of doubt. However I’ve came across a couple of footballers claiming 16 minutes and 11 seconds. This is utter nonsense, I am not buying it. I have been informed by team mates that there is a way you can cheat the system. Sprint 100 metres, pause app, get breath back, play app and repeat process; I know your game and I’m onto you.

Despite my cynicism towards some of the ridiculous times, this drive for fitness is a surprising but positive by product of this horrible pandemic, particularly its impact on an athlete’s well being. I have a theory, backed up by absolutely zero science, that professional athletes have become accustomed to an extremely high level of exercise therefore this lockdown could have a greater detrimental impact on an athlete’s well being in comparison to the average person. I am acutely aware of the benefits of physical exercise on an individual’s mental health, yet it was only in the last 3 or 4 years where I really understood the impact. At school, I was never taught about this link and although this has now changed in education, the majority of players will have been in the same boat as me. These silly fitness challenges could prevent my theory from fulfilling its negative prophecy – so ignore my cynicism and jealousy at your ridiculous 5km scores, and keep battering away guys.

I do worry about those not participating in exercise, however it will make interesting viewing for when we return to football. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the first game back where the players will resurface with physiques split into 2 categories, further split into 2 sub categories.

Category 1 – Mid to long distance runner:

– With a skinhead

– With the hair of that kid from Jumanji

Category 2 – Rik Waller

– With a skinhead

– With the hair of that kid from Jumanji

Darren Young giving me some last minute tactical instructions


That being said, the football on show won’t make for much of a spectacle for the fans. Many of us will be fit but due to our lack of practice with a football we won’t be able to string 2 passes together, trap a bag of cement and we will resemble a bunch of drunken men fighting over the last kebab. Maybe we should just stick to the toilet roll challenge instead?

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