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Thursday, September 19, 2013


Pat's Football Blog has covered the great game of football on every continent to some degree during the first thirty-four months or so of its existence..except one - Antarctica. However, that shall now be rectified, thanks to a series of articles, to be published at irregular intervals in the near future, forming part of a mini-series on the game on the continent and in the sub-Antarctic. 

(Granted, the more pedantic readers will correctly point out that one or two of the locations featured during the series are not part of the Antarctic continent proper, but as they are home to a number of Antarctic research stations run by countries such as the UK and Australia, they surely qualify for inclusion.)

First up is a short article on one man's experiences of playing football in the region; Robby van Tongeren, an Australian national who spent his formative years in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, and was previously billeted on Macquarie Island at the Macquarie Island Station, Wireless Hill, between 2010-11, kindly submitted his thoughts on football sub-Antarctic-style earlier this year, and what follows is an interesting compilation of the best of them.

"Macca," as the island is colloquially known, is politically administered by the Australian state of Tasmania, and lies approximately half-way between the southern tip of Tasmania and the Antarctic continent. The island has a year-round population of between 20 and 40 people. Robby van Tongeren is one of them, now back on this island on his second stint there and his fifth in the Antarctic region in all, and here's his take on life and football in the Antarctic region:

"I first arrived in Antarctica back in 2002/3 on my initial stint south at Australia’s Casey station. I was to spend a year there as a Dieso (diesel mechanic) for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). Over the summer at Casey I soon learnt that a high percentage of people followed Australian Rules Football (AFL). Although I am not sure why they call it football; I can’t figure that out as they use their hands for most of the game and the ball is.. mmmm.. not round. 

"Anyway, amongst the crew at Casey there was a familiar face in the crowd with a bald head and big beard and I thought, that’s Mick, from a rival team, Leichardt, back in the Cairns football competition I used to play against (I was in Edge Hill United and there was fierce dislike between the 2 teams). After all the pleasantries of slagging each other off on who had the better team from our playing days, we talked about football in general.  There was some indoor football played over my year at Casey station, but volleyball was mainly preferred as [there] was less contact and [everybody] could get involved in the game.

"Moving along to 2010 when I spent a year at Macquarie Island (Macca), again as a Dieso with the AAD. There were quite a few football fans with a variety of allegiances to teams around the world.  Of course, all of them supported the Socceroos when they were playing, and [also] various European teams such as Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Barcelona, etc. 

"This was also the year of the World Cup in South Africa and both Australia and my home team the Oranje were involved. I was lucky that one of the IT Communications people here (thank you Trozza) was a keen supporter of football and we were able to stream and watch the games early in the morning.  Because of the bandwidth streaming consumed, we needed everyone on station to refrain from using the internet while games were downloaded, otherwise it was impossible to watch [anything] as the screen would freeze up while trying to stream the games.  

"There were a few diehards who watched the games “live,” but because it was on early in the morning, most people opted to stay in bed.  This made it interesting as it would be known by some who won that morning and it was hard not to be told at breakfast before watching the game. So I avoided the newspapers and people until I actually watched the downloaded game that night. 

"Enough about the world game, and back to the local one on Macquarie Island. The games were mainly played in the storage warehouse {known as the "Green Store"] for fun and exercise. The concrete floor was swept and cleaned before-hand. Machinery and equipment was moved outside to make room for the match. Plywood boards was placed around areas like computers, lights and breakable items that were not easily moved out of harm’s way.  Cage pallets with one removable side were placed upside down to serve as goals. 

"Depending on the number of players the teams were divided up evenly for the game. Players with several different jerseys of their favourite teams were also on display. There were some discussions on rules but in the end there were none and the game started with no referee. Being a concrete floor and lots of other hazards like steel posts on the sides it made for an interesting game. 

"Players also wore various footwear from joggers to steel cap boots to Wellington boots. Many players wished they had shin-pads for protection. Most of those involved in the game followed other football codes, so there was a lot of pushing and shoving and chopping at the legs thinking they were playing the squashed ball game. 

"After pointing out to some of them about what can be done, the game settled down and a good work out was had. Some fancy footwork and shots on goal were seen during the game. The match lasted around an hour or so, until everyone decided they had enough. Needless to say, there were a few sore legs, bodies and faces from wayward shots tackling and the concrete floor.

"Macquarie Island expeditioners celebrated Australia and Waitangi Day on the 1st of February. It was delayed from the usual 26th January as the New Zealand contingent would be back on station from being in the field for a month.  

"A few hardy souls had an obligatory swim in the freezing ocean. Then there was food, drink and general merriment for everyone.  We played a range of sporting games including football. This was played outside the “Green Store”, which is the island’s main warehouse, as the weather gods were on our side with a warm sunny day of, oh, about 10 degrees. 

"I set up some cage pallets (these are steel-mesh cargo containers) as goals at each end. These were placed upside down, creating goals similar to indoor football games, but not as high. Teams were a mix of both male and female Aussie and Kiwi players. As I mentioned [previously], footwear varied from bare feet to joggers, and steel capped to wellington boots. There were some jostling, shoving and Rugby tactics employed at times by the Kiwi fraternity, but overall the game was played in great spirits.

"Football down south, well, on Macca, is mostly enjoyed indoors in the Green Store, due to often inclement weather. But, I guess the most talked about game is either AFL, Rugby or Cricket as most people here are from the southern Australian states."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks go to Robby van Tongeren for taking the time to supply the above article, and also to Nisha Harris from the Australian Antarctic Division for her assistance with organising the article. A pity, however, that the photographs supplied with Robby's story seem to have disappeared!  

Please note that the above article was submitted under strict conditions from the Australian Antarctic Division; should you wish to use any of the information contained in the above article, well, no pilfering, please, but kindly submit your request to use the information above to Nisha at:
FOOTBALL BLOGGING AWARDS: Pat's Football Blog has decided to throw hats into two different rings this year with regard to the 2013 Football Blogging Awards: Best Male blog and Best Established blog. Your vote, dear reader, would be immeasurably valued, but regardless which blog tickles your fancy the most, kindly click on/copy the following link to find out more:

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