Haris Amin reviews the annual History v Geography match and argues the need for a UCL inter-society football league.
Despite Manchester United claiming one of the most memorable victories in their 141-year history, it is testament to the UCL History Society that their victory over UCL Geographical Society was arguably the greatest win in football this week. There are obvious parallels between the two events. Take the comparisons between United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and UCL History Society manager Hamzah Khalique-Loonat. Both are charismatic individuals who inspired their troops to greatness and both are adored by the players. There is one key difference however. When a penalty was awarded in the last minute, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left the responsibility on the shoulders of a 20-year old who had never taken a spot-kick for Manchester United, Marcus Rashford. When the same happened on Tuesday, in the last minute of the game, the gaffer Khalique-Loonat stepped up himself and buried it. It sent a clear message to the players: ‘I’m in charge boys, don’t worry’.
Khalique-Loonat set up the team in a 3-3-3-1 formation, inspired by Marco ‘El Loco’ Bielsa. The formation enabled a unique transition from defence to attack. UCL History stormed to an early lead, with striker Doll one of the early benefactors of the dynamic structure of the team. While History constructed their goals in the first half, Geography veritably stole them. Lucky bounces and defensive lapses always happen in football, and credit must be given to the Geography strikers, who were alert to capitalise on them. At the end of the half, the score was locked at 2-2.
We thought that an injury crisis had robbed us of the talents of one of UCL Men’s Football’s finest, Olivier Dadic, but his arrival, alongside Tariq on the left wing, was decisive, injected the pace needed to unravel Geography’s defence. It was only the behemoth performance of the Geography keeper that kept the score line in single figures. Matt Jones was deployed in the role of stopper, but it would perhaps be more accurate to define his role as the ‘destroyer’, because any legal effort to bypass him was futile. Like the occasion, the overall performance was glorious, with UCL History winning the game 6-2.
Perhaps there is a wider point to be made here, that being the absolute, imperative need for an inter-society football league. UCL History Society averages just two football matches per year; undoubtedly, there is an appetite for more. As a former president, I know how difficult it is for a non-Union affiliated society to get anything done. To organise this football match, the UCL Geographical Society had to book a pitch, pay for it, and organise the opposition. No easy feat.
Other universities have intramural football leagues. Take, for example, Bristol, which has 58 teams playing intramural football from October to March, with the whole process entirely organised by the Student Union. The university describes the intramural tournament as ‘low-pressure, high-octane fun that keeps you active and healthy’. UCL is a bigger university, with a similar appetite for sport amongst the student body. Why is there no intramural league?
In fairness, there are some opportunities to play football scattered throughout the year. UCL Men’s Football have hosted charity 5-aside tournaments in the past. This club should be given immense credit, but perhaps they need a bit more help from UCL. Thousands of people participate in the trials for UCL Men’s Football, and it impossible to find a team for every willing and capable footballer. Football will always be the sport of the people. Occasions like the annual History vs. Geography match need to be celebrated and encouraged by the university. The football pitch this Tuesday was gender inclusive, competitive, and, despite the fact I rugby tackled someone, friendly. It is just a shame that matches like this are not a more frequent occasion.