By John Jones
Having loved playing and watching sport throughout my entire life, the eclectic range of sporting opportunities on offer at Cardiff was always going to be a huge draw for me when choosing universities.
Throughout my time at school and college, I played both rugby and hockey to a decent standard, so I was disappointed to not make the cut at the Men’s hockey trials during my first term at uni.
However, it did make me realise that playing high-level sport at Cardiff was more competitive than anything I had been used to before and required a greater commitment than I was willing to make.
For me, sport was something to be involved in alongside my degree and other commitments, not instead of. By no means should this discourage anyone from trying out for these teams – if you have enthusiasm and the right levels of commitment and desire then they will most likely take you on – I just knew that it wasn’t for me.
What I wanted was an opportunity to regularly play a sport that I enjoyed, keep fit and make new friends. It was then that I was introduced to the wonderful, unpredictable world of IMG football.
The IMG (Intra-Mural Games) program constitutes recreational, fun and competitive leagues for those wanting to play sport and socialise with new people, without a significant time commitment or necessary prior experience.
Despite not playing regular football in eight years (which showed greatly), I soon slotted into a welcoming, good-humoured and relaxed team, and found myself playing some really enjoyable, if at times incredibly poor, football on a weekly basis.
It is exactly this that makes IMG football so successful. It cares not for your experience, fitness or natural talent; as long as you can show up on a Wednesday afternoon, kick a ball about, and have a laugh, you’re good to go.
However, this is not to undersell IMG – across the four 11-a-side leagues, you can find some real talent, which ensures that fixtures remain competitive and fast flowing. For every Titus Bramble, there’s a Paolo Maldini; for every Ali Dia, there’s a Cristiano Ronaldo. However, playing on a heavily saturated Pontcanna pitch, being pummelled by rain, and taking a few stingers on the thigh from a ball made of concrete makes it more of a level playing field (although not literally).
The more optimistic approach to the lacklustre playing conditions is to say that it only heightens the sense of teamwork and camaraderie; if your teammate can pick you out with a perfectly weighted through-ball whilst playing on a pitch like the Somme, then they’ll have your back anywhere.
A similar feeling is had from the weekly socials following the matches; you may find yourself dressed as a hippy, a caveman, a clown or a pretty little flower, but as you stagger towards the SU with your team, shivering and inebriated, you’ll take comfort in the fact that you’re all in it together (always drink responsibly).
In order for an IMG team to thrive, however, it needs plenty of players, and not only to ensure that they turn out with at least eleven players each week. So, if you find yourself in the same position as I did, try out for an IMG team; chances are, it will be one of the best decisions you make during your time at Cardiff.