The ARCSOCcer team pose after a matchLily Alford

ARCSOC’s association with glitzy club nights with baffling themes and trendy intercollegiate social circles has, perhaps ungenerously, given the society a reputation for being pretentious. However, ARCSOCcer captain, Alex Aliev explains it’s really all about community:

“Some impressive debuts today and moments of brilliance across the pitch, but I give the player of the match award to Lily Alford. In only her second game of football her presence at the back was immense, and her Maradona hand of god moment in our box that led to a penalty [for the opposition] was football heritage at its finest.”

I’m not very good at football. Contact sports bring out an ugly side to my temper, even if they’re as relaxed as the league which ARCSOCcer plays in, and no one else is interested in fuelling my frustration.

However, I am bound by friendship to the team captain and second-year architect, Alex, to make up numbers for the occasional Sixth Division football match. This, luckily, comes with the promise that I have first dibs on being subbed when an architect finally emerges from their mysterious studio into the daylight of Cambridge’s various recreation grounds.

Last week I was asked to play in goal, in a match fondly remembered as “David v Goliath”. Starting strong, I knocked Robinson 2s’ secret weapon (their chaplain-cum-referee) to the ground to disconcerted cheers. Soon, however, the opposition started racking up goals and the cheers turned to pitiful (and patronising) claps from my team. The loss was recorded as 3-7/8 on the ARCSOCcer Facebook page, which seems like an exaggeration.

It’s all good fun, though. I met up with Alex in the college laundry room (a venue chosen for its laidback energy and architectural genius) to discuss the team. It was also a coincidence.

Lily gives football (and sand astroturfs) the thumbs upLily Alford

Alex has hopes for promotion by the time his tenure ends, but his main enthusiasm for his captaincy comes from the inclusivity of the team. For him, the mixed-gender and mixed-ability aspect “speaks to the spirit of the team and also the league. The openness of selection doesn’t detract from performance, because everyone gives it a fantastic go and has a laugh while doing it.”

Unfortunately, some weeks this is harder than others, with ARCSOCcer competing with college teams to get enough players together. There’s also the fact that ARCSOCcer is not just the best all-gender team in the league, but also the only one. That talented female and non-binary players would prefer not to play all-male teams is perhaps not surprising, especially when they can play at a higher level for their colleges and the university. But I would encourage any such ARCSOC affiliates to put these thoughts aside for an afternoon and have a kick around – I’ve found running into men to be quite cathartic.

This week’s match against MedSoc was encouraging however, with a team of 13 strutting onto the turf. We actually had more players than the other side, even offering up our subs to their team. The medics refused, knowing the strength of our team’s allegiance to the ARCSOC cause. Unfortunately, the game culminated in a 4-3 loss, but everyone remained cheerful.


Mountain View

A love letter to the Lionesses

I managed to catch up with Reuben Brown, the ARCSOC president, after the game: “I’d never played or turned up to an ARCSOCcer match before becoming President this year. Honestly, I thought the team might die for lack of players, but Alex has been such a great captain and brought everyone together on this. It’s something to bond over with a bunch of people I wouldn’t have typically spent so much time with.” He adds that, despite the very serious team warmup session before the game: “I’ve also learned that I’m a lot less flexible and more injury-prone than I was the last time I played in a football team, when I was 13… My pulled hip abductor from this week’s game looks like I might have to miss the next one… and I am bummed.”

ARCSOCcer may not be the best team in the league according to the stats, but it’s become one of my favourite hobbies this year – as much as I may put up a reluctant pretence. If you’re an architect or art historian – or otherwise ARCSOC adjacent – and you’re looking for a kind, yet suitably violent, weekend activity, check out the ARCSOCcer Facebook page to see how you can support us. Because you know what? I think I might be getting a little bit better at football.