Most people grow out of their love of playing in the mud. But, as the Swamp Soccer World Championships hit Argyll this June, Anna Docherty discovers it’s still fun to get down and dirty.
This is one football tournament that can’t be rained off or cancelled because of poor pitch conditions. As far as Swamp Soccer is concerned, the muddier and slippier the atmosphere the better. ‘The pitch is two feet deep in wet mud and players get covered from head to toe,’ says Stewart Miller, the founder of Swamp Soccer in the UK.
‘It basically turns the whole competitive sporting concept on its head - in that the playing surface is deliberately poor and you don’t have to be a supreme athlete to take part.’ Indeed, it is a low skill event and you pretty much just let the ball do the work. Some of you might say it sounds like the perfect Scottish sport, but that would just be cheeky.
The idea originated in Finland in 1997 when some cross country skiers who were training in the swamps got bored and decided to hold a soccer tournament. There are now over 200 competing teams worldwide and the sport has its very own World Championships, which for the fourth year running are being held in the idyllic Highland area of Argyll.
The two-day Championships offer up a summer event that is a little different from your music festivals and Highland games. Indeed, Swamp Soccer has proved to be a unique and popular alternative: ‘There is a real appetite for people who want to try something adventurous, new and completely different,’ explains Miller.
‘The majority of teams participate purely for fun and the opportunity to roll around in the muck; it’s not so much about the winning,’ he says. In fact, the only real way of spotting a champion is by the amount of mud on them: ‘I've had players inform me that they have found dirt in places that they would never have imagined, many days after the event.’
The combination of mud and malarkey has proved to be a winning formula and it’s refreshing to have a sport that is not overly focused on skill. Indeed, any tactical master-plan goes out the window the moment your bottom meets with the soggy ground - which usually happens pretty swiftly. ‘Playing Swamp Soccer is essentially being like a kid again,’ surmises Miller.
Indeed, it’s likely to take you back to the days when any sporting success was measured by the amount of washing your mum had to do at the end of it. Because, as we all know, that’s the mark of a true champ.
The Swamp Soccer World Championships take place on 27-28 June at the Swamp Soccer Arena in Strachur, Argyll, Scotland. The price per team entry is £115 and the team size is unlimited. For more information and details on how to get there visit www.swampsoccer.co.uk