Masters Summer League Geelong was launched on a wing and a prayer in early 2020 because 60+ men over 35 were bursting to play soccer but a competition couldn’t be organised by the sport’s governing body.  It became clear that volunteer action was needed.

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There was a strong belief that such a competition could be a success in spite of past failures. So, inspired by this belief and a lot of determination to turn a dream into a reality, a new concept was designed and driven by founders Barboros Kara, Ross Abraham and Simon Blanch.  There were lessons to be learned from past seasons, and with those in mind, the new concept includes shorter game times, safer rules, a single venue each week for games, with a supporting venue for fellowship.

Emphasis was placed on community, camaraderie, friendly competition, physical activity and men’s mental health. In the words of Barboros (John), “we are three guys who love the sport, love competition and who didn’t want to get hurt.  We figured, most likely, others felt the same way. What we all missed most after the previous season collapse of the competition was the after the game chat, the escapism of playing the game, and just plain having fun with team mates.”

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As things evolved, it became clear that out there weren’t just 60 men wanting to play; there were 138 – and that was just who could be dug up at the first attempt! Eight teams were formed and a round robin competition was held on Saturday afternoons during February and March 2020. Self-organisation dictated the need for cost savings and DIY activity, including pre-match line painting, sometimes with humorously wonky outcomes – but no-one minded. It was part of the fun and camaraderie which has become Club spirit.

Whilst teams are loosely based around existing club teams, the club barriers have been largely broken down. Men played for teams other than those they had played for in the past and this created the chance to get to know others they would never have met otherwise. Players happily filled in for opposing teams when they were short. Men who hadn’t played for years, or indeed at all, got off the couch and had a go. Men who had previously only played competitively against one another repeatedly over the years and merely nodded in recognition, now had a drink and a chat together after play.

Competitive men who love a sport have become a unified community. “All of our mental health goals were kicked, with a highlight being thanks from wives who said their men were better husbands and fathers thanks to the opportunity to play with and against other men on a Saturday afternoon.” Family friendliness was noted by many, with children happily playing pitch side sometimes with grandmas and other adults nearby for further family interactions.

“With the season drawing to a close, it was decided to play for a winner’s trophy so one was created and named after Everitt Nelson, a local legend of the game who played open age soccer until he was 78, and still kicks a ball socially in his 80s.

“Alas (or so it seemed), our last match had to be aborted when social distancing rules because of the COVID-19 threat interrupted plans late in the piece but what to do with the trophy?  Creativity and camaraderie came to the fore again and ‘COVID-19’ was declared the ‘Season Winner!’ Again, no one minded.”

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Without a doubt, Masters Summer League Geelong will return in 2021, bigger and better but with the DNA preserved from the highly successful Season One.

Editor’s Comment:  Barboros, Ross and Simon welcome contact from any man over 35 who might be interested in playing soccer and their phone numbers are:

Barboros – 0408 736 162

Ross – 0403 176 649

Simon – 0438 025 414

This has been a great initiative stemming from the inspiration of these three guys who wanted to play soccer themselves and believed there were others in the Community who shared the same belief in building community spirit and improved mental health through playing a game made more suitable.  The Geelong Community is the better for their determination, thoughtfulness and effort. The season ended with a positive bank balance and with that a donation was able to be made to ‘Read the Play’ – a charitable initiative for the health and wellbeing of young people. The success in one season is remarkable.

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(Barboros, Ross and Simon (pictured L-R) supplied the text of this story and were interviewed by HuG Team Member, Althea Abraham)