While league titles are still to be decided and World Cup hopes are being shaped in the professional football game, our little corner of the Kentish countryside hosts a no holds barred event that’s far more exciting than anything Guardiola v Mourinho can offer.
Every Good Friday, two teams of 150-ish (yes, you read that right!) attempt to kick, throw, carry and smuggle a football across a pitch that stretches over a mile, goal to goal – over fields, rivers and through woodland.
A truly epic battle, Chiddingstone Real Football matches can take around four hours to be completed and, if we’re brutally honest, there are very few rules.
Anyone that bemoans the more overdramatic elements of the modern football game will be pleased that this sport closely resembles rugby at times.
Suffice to say, you’re not a real football fan until you’ve witnessed The Castle Crusaders, who proudly defend our pub’s honour, take on The Rock Inn Rollers. You can register to play almost up to the 2pm kick off at chiddingstonerealfootball.co.uk and it costs £10 per player, including a commemorative t-shirt.
Making football history
With so much history and tradition in Chiddingstone, you might imagine that we’ve been playing this sport in the village for centuries but this charity fundraiser is only in its sixth year.
“Originally it was just people from the village and surrounding areas that took part, but last year we had a group come all the way down from Scotland,” says organiser Katie Ashworth.
“We’re expecting around 250 players in total this year, and probably about 2,000 spectators.”
Chiddingstone Real Football’s version of this originally medieval game was inspired by Ashbourne Shrovetide Football, a game that’s been played in Derbyshire over two days (Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday) since at least 1667.
“A couple of our committee members attended it a few years ago, and thought real football would be great to bring down to the south as a fundraiser,” says Katie.
The first Chiddingstone Real Football match, which was won by The Castle Crusaders in 2013, helped to raise money for the rebuild of the Chiddingstone Causeway Arts & Social Centre (village hall).
With that build completed last year, the event is now fundraising for three more local charities: Mind West Kent (Mental Health), Kent Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance and Edenbridge Hospital League of Friends.
“Chiddingstone village lends itself very well to the game, as we can play over a pretty vast area of land without facing a road – making it slightly safer, and providing a great boundary for the game,” says Katie.
Join the Chiddingstone Real Football party!
While the action can be rough and ready on the pitch, proceedings are just as lively off it. The drinks will be flowing, live music rocking and our BBQ will be roaring at The Castle Inn for players and spectators alike.
The whole day is free to attend, but marshals and volunteers will be circulating with buckets for voluntary donations throughout – and the raffle will be drawn here at 7pm, before the after party starts.
It’s going to be much more fun than watching England struggle to put a team together for the World Cup in Russia, so join us from 10am for our football event of the year – and pace yourselves, as we’re open until midnight. Come on, Crusaders!
This year’s Chiddingstone Real Football match takes place on Good Friday, March 30, 2018 from 10am.
Find out more about the event at Chiddingstone Real Football