View from a #DarkBlue… The Football Sabbatical

View from a #DarkBlue… The Football Sabbatical

By Tom PhelanOxford University Association Football Club Sabbatical Officer
Follow me on Twitter @TomPhelan7 and OUAFC on @OxUniFootball

“Taking on the Football Sabbatical role this year is an absolute privilege but, at the same time a massive challenge. Especially trying to fill the boots of my predecessor Alex Biggs, who did a great job!

I know carrying on his work just won’t be enough and I need to do something to leave some sort of legacy by the end of the year. As luck would have it the opportunity was presented to me in the first few weeks of the role. Setting up an Oxford University College Futsal League and University Futsal team is now well underway!

Setting up a new futsal league

Futsal is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Although still predominantly played in South America it is also becoming very popular in continental Europe. It is effectively indoor football, played with 5 players, almost square, metal goals and a dense, foam ball. It is extremely fast paced and is often very high scoring, particularly at a lower level. The Football Association are keen to introduce Futsal into the UK, particularly at a ‘grass roots’ level. I have worked closely with Alex Bunn, the Oxfordshire representative of Futsal UK and with his help we have use of the brand new Oxford City Lions futsal venue in Cowley, where we will be playing our college futsal games every Saturday afternoon.

My day-to-day role

Aside from setting up futsal leagues my role is essentially divided into three parts. Firstly, to oversee the running of the JCR and MCR college leagues, secondly to assist and support the OUAFC committee and thirdly to coach the University Development Squad (3rd men’s team).

The College side of my job is predominantly admin based and once the divisions and fixtures were all set up I assumed everything would sort of run itself, oh how I was wrong! I get about twenty to thirty emails a day asking various questions about college leagues and I have spent three weeks chasing up captains getting them to pay their affiliation fees, as well as various other tasks such as the weekly assigning of referees for matches. These might not seem like much, but they when they are all added up they become very time consuming.

All the same, I absolutely love this side of my job and getting paid to send emails about football isn’t bad at all and if I could make a career of that then I wouldn’t really complain!

Alas, this is only a nine month role and therefore I have to make the most of getting to talk about the sport I love on an hourly basis, as in the future I doubt my ‘work’ emails will be nearly as exciting! Supporting the OUAFC committee doesn’t really feel like work at all. Getting the opportunity to support and help out the club I love is something I would be doing anyway.

Some of my best university experiences have been with OUAFC, the highlight of which was the tour to Madrid last Easter. We got to play against Atletico Madrid Under-18s, a once in a life time opportunity, or maybe not… as we potentially have the opportunity to go and play them again this season! But, this time we may also take on the young Galácticos (Real Madrid Under-18s)!

The Varsity Match

An extra benefit to being the Football Sabbatical Officer is I don’t only get to help out OUAFC but I am still eligible to play for the Blues but, sadly the rules don’t allow me to play in Varsity. However, I still get to play my part as I am in charge of arranging the match itself and most importantly in selecting the venue for the match. In recent years the match has been played at Fulham, Oxford United, Cambridge United and Crystal Palace. This year we are looking to go big again, and having heard on the grapevine that Fulham FC are keen to welcome us back to Craven Cottage, it is a great opportunity for me to re-establish our relationship. Having played in Varsity matches before, I know that they are a very special occasion for the players and fans, so securing a venue as prestigious as Craven Cottage would be a great achievement.


Coaching the Development Squad is one of the most exciting parts of my job. Last year as Centaurs Captain (men’s 2nd team) I was given the opportunity to not only captain but also to coach the Centaurs. This year it has been great to be able to really focus on coaching without having to actually play in the training sessions or matches.

Although the development squad aren’t yet entered into a BUCS league they play friendlies throughout the year and their season culminates in a Colleges XI Varsity match against Cambridge on the same day as the Centaurs Varsity match. This year these two varsity matches will be in held away in Cambridge and we will be looking to repeat the whitewash of 2 years ago when we last travelled to Cambridge.”

This is the second in a weekly series of blog posts featuring views from different members of the sporting community at Oxford involved in student sports. Next week we will hear from Bernard Tao the Rowing Sabbatical Officer. We will catch up with Tom again in a few weeks time.

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