BERNAT LÓPEZ / 2nd FEBRUARY / ©XTREM FOOTBALL
Each August Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, a unique football game takes place in the River Windrush at Bourton on the Water (England). Every year, two teams of six made brave the chilly water trying to achieve a huge win. The 30-minute match is played out between Bourton Rovers FC first and second squads. Several hundred spectators line banks of the river to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the spectacle.
It’s not entirely clear how the idea of playing a football match in a river first arose, but the tradition has reportedly been going strong for around 100 years. Goal posts are set up under the bridges and players brave the cold knee-deep water wearing nothing but bright coloured football shorts or fancy dress.
There is a qualified referee in charge and proper football rules apply. The players attempt to score as many goals as possible and the only difference is that the match is played into water. River football match organizer Matt Winter, of Bourton Rovers FC, revealed: “Rumour has it that it was started by some men who were bored, so to break the boredom they decided to jump in the river and have a kick about and it’s carried on ever since”.
“The sport get average crowds of roughly 2.000 people, sometimes more, when it’s hot weather”
“We get average crowds of roughly 2.000 people, sometimes more, when it’s hot weather. It coincides with the Bourton Rovers fete which is on the village green next to the river. The fete has stalls and games for kids, and we also do duck racing in the river from 10am until the river football starts”, he added.
The annual river football match, which has been held as long as the club has been in existence, is regarded internationally as a typically quirky British event. In the last few years it’s been filmed by BBC’s Countryfile show. Just amazing.