Shout out to my boys Smit and Pie Man for giving me the heads up on this one. I haven’t seen either of them in ages but they both seem to really love Sick Chirpse which is really cool and makes me feel pretty good. Apparently Pie Man lives in Atherstone now which makes a lot of sense because he was kinda weird and inbred and this Atherstone Ball Game is really weird and inbred.
I was meant to post about this around pancake day but I just never got around to it – I guess I was too busy eating pancakes or partying or something. It’s still really funny and weird and worth mentioning though, and I felt like I had a duty to report on it so maybe people could try and take part in it next year. I don’t know if anyone would actually want to travel all the way to Atherstone though for this because it’s blatantly a really horrible inbred kinda area. Just thinking about it is giving me the chills.
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Anyway, the Atherstone ball game is one of the oldest traditions in the country, although I’m not really sure why it exists. Basically there’s this huge leather ball that you have to grab onto and hold onto for a set period of time, and if you’re holding it at the end of the time period then you’re the winner. It doesn’t sound that great huh, but it pretty much just turns the whole city of Atherstone into a riot zone.
The shops and businesses board up their premises to prevent damage and pretty much the whole population of the town and maybe some other people who have come down especially for the ball game pretty much beat the absolute shit out of each other to try and keep a hold of the ball when the klaxon that signals the end of the game is sounded. The game lasts for roughly two hours so as you might think there’s a lot of carnage as hundreds of people run around the city centre messing each other up and trying to keep a hold of the elusive ball. It’s nuts.
Here’s how it goes down. The shopkeepers will spend all morning boarding up their shops so that they don’t get completely destroyed during the game, and then everyone will slowly make their way to Barclay’s Bank for around 2:30pm. The children will gather underneath the balcony here and someone will throw off sweets and pennies to them.
Then at 3pm it’s time to get serious. All the men will gather under the balcony and then someone will throw the huge Atherstone ball down onto the crowd and the event will begin. The ball is a real monster – it’s made out of leather and weighs four pounds and is full of water to prevent it being kicked very far. The rules of the game state that the ball is kicked up and down Long Street until at least 4:30pm, at which point people start to try and keep a hold of it and then basically once you’ve got a hold of it you aren’t going anywhere because of how massive it is and everyone is just gonna jump on you and kick your ass until they get it off you.
The winner of the ball game gets to keep that year’s ball and some kind of cash reward but the value of this has varied over the years. The main accolade is the pride at having won the ball game, and apparently there are a bunch of intense rivalries between those taking part in it, so maybe you might not want to get involved next year to avoid getting in the middle of something like that. Unless you want to get involved in the affairs of some weird inbred town, which I’m guessing you don’t if you’re a normal person.
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The reason that Smit decided to draw my attention to the Atherstone Ball Game this year was because it had a slightly controversial ending, in that for the first time in its history there were two winners rather than one. Sean Glenn and Luke Riley shared the accolade as both of them clutched onto the ball for 35 minutes in an alcove as people battered the living shit out of them trying to get it off them. Apparently they made the deal off the cuff when they were underneath a pile of other people to both protect the ball as best they could in a team effort, and it looks like it worked out, although the result has been controversial with many people unhappy and complaining about it. I guess Sean and Luke will be marked men if they choose to enter next year’s event.
Here’s some footage from this year’s event that just makes the whole event look completely and utterly weird to be honest. There are a lot of videos of the ball game on the internet but after that I found some footage from 2010 which is pretty insane and brutal and has loads of fighting in it, so check that out after, and then there’s another highlights package simply called Atherstone Riot which says in its description that the ball game is simply a chance for rivals to ‘settle old scores’ rather than being the fun event that I thought it was.
Based on these clips, I don’t think I’ll be attending next year as I don’t want to get in the middle of all this local beef and get the crap kicked out of me over the chance to hold onto some massive ball, but if anyone else is up for it then please let us know how it goes.
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