Science - April 16, 2009

FOOTBALL FOR FUN AFTER STUDYING ALL DAY

You don’t have to join a sports club to enjoy some exercise in the fresh air. You can just meet up with some friends. Twice a week a group of Dutch and foreign students get out onto the football field at the Bongerd. ‘It’s good for the mind after a serious day of lectures’, says Prosper, an MSc student from Ghana.

A friendly match at The Bongerd.
It’s all very peaceful, disciplined and friendly on the field during Thursday evening’s match. As blackbirds whistle in the bushes and the sun goes down behind the trees, fifteen men are running around the field next to the Hoevestein student residence at the Bongerd. Orange bollards at both ends serve as goals. To make the teams distinguishable there are sky blue tabards that, judging by their faded colour and the slogan they bear (telephone company Ben), have been around a few years.

At least two evenings a week there’s a group of footballers here from a quarter past six. ‘Sometimes we play on Saturday or Sunday as well. We just agree on it together’, says Ozias, an MSc student of Agricultural and Bioresource engineering, who is just getting his breath back in the goal.

These sessions started about eight years ago when a group of footballers from the Droevendaal residence started coming to the Bongerd because the field at the residence got so bad, says ex-student Koen, who has carried on playing since graduating. In the winter a small contribution is raised to pay for lighting the field. Prosper played this winter too, even though he thought it was terrible to have to play with a jacket on.

On another part of the field a trainer is getting a couple of lads to shoot goals. Ozias, who is from Benin, thinks it’s more fun to play in these matches. ‘You can come here to play when you want to, and you play with your friends.’ There are no fixed teams. Teams are usually picked by the two players that are seen as the best. You never know beforehand who will be playing; it just depends who turns up. Sometimes there are lots of Chinese on the field, and then for a couple of months there are suddenly a lot of Italians. This evening there are a number of Africans, one Chinese and a few Dutch.

People are running up the field by now, going after a ball and scoring a goal. Many are wearing protection, but it doesn’t look strictly necessary. Nobody is kicked to the ground, and you don’t hear anyone shouting orders or cursing, as you often do on a football field. It’s all very gentlemanly. ‘Well, we have to be careful, because we’re here in Wageningen for the academic work, after all’, says Prosper. ‘But after a day of studying it’s wonderful to do something outside.’ He does have a sports card, and he sometimes plays table tennis or swims. But what he likes best is to be active out of doors with friends.

At about a quarter to eight the tempo begins to slow down. There is no winner this evening: the goals haven’t been counted. The blue vests go back in an equally blue backpack, Prosper collects the bollards and takes then back to the sports hall, and in five minutes the field is deserted – as if they’d never been here. The international students wander across to the Bornsesteeg residence. Time for supper.

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