Tuesday, 27 March 2012

23. Tadley-Calleva FC

The entrance to Tadley-Calleva's pitch is hidden behind the changing rooms.
So, what does Calleva mean exactly? Town, Athletic, United - these are all quickly understood football club suffixes, but Calleva is unique.

Well, Calleva (or Calleva Atrebatum, to be more accurate) is the Latin name for the nearby settlement of Silchester, which has a well-preserved area of ancient walls and, perhaps more excitingly, a real-life, actual Roman amphitheatre. You can regularly see archaeologists working hard at the site, digging away (very carefully), dusting off fragments of mosaic and occasionally discovering an old coin or two.

From their studies, we know that there was a primitive form of football played at the amphitheatre, often involving teams of trained wild bears (see the photo below for an artist's impression of what this type of football may have looked like). From carefully pieced together fragments of writing on clay tablets, we know that one of the teams that regularly played at the amphitheatre was called Calleva Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (Silchester Nothing But The Best Is Good Enough FC). We can only speculate as to the ancient rules, but I'm sure it must have been very entertaining for the locals.

A wild and fierce bear playing football at Roman Silchester's amphitheatre.
Tadley-Calleva FC (0) 0 v 0 (0) Ringwood Town FC
Saturday 24th March 2012
Sydenham's Wessex League Division One
Attendance: 38 (headcount)
Entrance: £4
Programme: £1
Club shop: No (nor is there a clubhouse until next season - currently under construction)
Colours: Yellow / black / black v All red
National Grid reference: SU6062

Tadley-Calleva's Barlows Park ground as seen from the nearby heathland.
From these venerable roots grew the modern-day football club of Tadley-Calleva FC. Note the hyphen in the name - a pedant's joy - the hyphen being a strong elasticated rope which binds together the present-day town of Tadley in north Hampshire with its 2,000 year-old predecessor. There can be no hiding that they're proud of their heritage around these parts - that hyphen is a giveaway.

Today's Tadley is positioned close to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. An aerial view of the surrounding area reveals several weapons bunkers within a mile of Barlows Park. Between the football ground and the weapons facility lies a heath, golden with gorse flowers at this time of the year. Stonechats would normally be found in habitat like this, crackling and twizzling away, but I didn't see any on Saturday.

The neat and tidy stand at Tadley-Calleva FC, the letters T and C written in gold.
Barlows Park lies on the north side of what is now called Silchester Road, or, far more interestingly, the old Devil's Highway to Londinium. You can just about imagine the old blues singer Robert Johnson standing at the crossroads behind the ground, selling his soul to the devil (after a swift appetiser of Pretzel dusted calamari, marinara sauce & mustard aioli in the Broomsquire Hotel - Sky Sports is available there).

The trouble with Tadley-Calleva's ground being on the north side of the Devil's Highway is that this is the boundary between Hampshire and Berkshire - which means that the match that I watched on Saturday took place outside of my home county. However, as the town of Tadley lies totally within Hants, barring the football ground, I'm still counting them as a Hampshire club. Otherwise, the new name for this blog would be Hopping Around Hampshire Incorporating Bumbling Around Berkshire, making it sound like an amalgamation of 1970s comics (see Whizzer & Chips Incorporating Topper - if that even existed - must check).

An obedient puppy posing for the camera at Tadley-Calleva.
Barlows Park is a new ground, built in 2007 on an old landfill site. I guess if future archaeologists dig down beneath the pitch, they might find a great deal of evidence of 20th century civilisation - old Marmite jars, fragments of comics incorporating other comics, mustard seeds, etc. As fascinating to people in 2,000 years time as the Roman excavations at Silchester are to us now. They wouldn't find any old tea bags or drinks cartons from Saturday's match however, as the refreshments hut wasn't open. They're currently building a new clubhouse next to the changing rooms, so there should be food and drink available to visitors next season.

As a new facility - shared with Reading's women's football team - there aren't any rickety old stands to admire at Barlows Park. There's a nice new one which provided some ice-cool relief from the heat, and was more full than is usual at the smaller clubs that I've visited, where people often gather around the clubhouse. The whole place is neat and tidy and as pleasant as a Mr Whippy 99 on a warm day. Grizzliness and character will come with age, and at only five years old, there's no wrinkles at Tadley quite yet.

The unused refreshments hut.
I'm not trying to avoid mentioning the match, but there's not much to write about it. I'd had high hopes for this one, as both clubs had been on a good run recently (barring an 8-0 home defeat for the hosts last week). Not only that, but the last Wessex League Division One match I'd watched (AFC Portchester v Team Solent) had produced nine goals. And what's more, Tadley-Calleva had featured in my favourite game from last season, a 4-3 defeat at Andover New Street.

But like a lot of hotly-anticipated matches, this one finished 0-0. Tadders (as they call themselves, sounding like a commentator on Test Match Special) had several good chances, including two virtually open goals to aim at. Sadly, they must have been watching the penalty takers in the recent Six Nations rugby tournament a little too closely, as almost every shot went high over the bar. As Tadders' net custodian kept yelling: "Composure!"

No composure = no goals.

I wonder if the wild and fierce Roman bears could have done any better?

Ringwood Town on the attack.
I'll finish off with two short quizzes on Roman town names and Latin football mottos, for no better reason than I like setting quizzes.

We've learnt that Calleva Atrebatum = Silchester. Which English towns were once known by the following Latin names:

1. Venta Bulgarum
2. Noviomagus
3. Deva
4. Aquae Sulis
5. Durovernum

Upon whose club crests would you find the following Latin mottos:

1. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum
2. Arte et Labore
3. Audere est Facere
4. Superbia in Proelia
5. Domus Clamantium

Extra-special speccy kudos if you can translate any of the phrases.

The last motto would almost certainly be a pointless answer on TV's Pointless. And as that show's Richard Osman might say: "See how many you can get at home"

I'll post the answers in the comments in a few days.

A life-sized aluminium model of the Michelin Man's body next to the turnstile at Tadley-Calleva.
A nice day out at Tadders, despite the lack of goals, and if I achieve nothing else in my life, at least I've managed to squeeze a mention of mustard aioli in to a football report, which may be a world first.

There'll be two more featured matches this season, both appearing after Easter...

1 comment:

  1. The quiz answers are:

    Roman cities:

    1. Winchester
    2. Chichester
    3. Bath
    4. Chester
    5. Canterbury

    Club mottos:

    1. Everton (translates as "Nothing but the best is good enough")
    2. Blackburn Rovers (By skill and labour)
    3. Tottenham Hotspur (To dare is to do)
    4. Manchester City (Pride in battle)
    5. Gillingham (Home of the shouting men)

    Seriously well done if you got all of those!

    As a postscript, the official attendance at Tadley-Calleva was 31, which is very close to what I counted.