December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 25, 2013
A football coach led a group of soccer-mad youngsters to a new Guinness World Record for the longest five-a-side match ever played – 54 hours – in an emotional tribute to his father who died of cancer.
James Grimes said he lost someone with whom he was “best of friends” when his dad, Richard, died of pancreatic cancer aged 50 earlier this year.
Determined to do something to honour his memory, he decided to team up with Upwell mobile postmistress Pam Salmon – who herself lost her husband, Keith, to cancer in September last year – to set a new world record that would make his father proud.
“It was horrible when he was diagnosed,” said James 23, of Nordelph, who has now taken over the football coaching business he managed jointly with his father.
“My dad and I had a natural love of football. We went to watch Peterborough United every weekend. He watched me play and always encouraged me with coaching. I wanted to do something that would honour his memory.
“Even though we were best of friends and had a great relationship, he said that I often talked a good game but never saw anything through. This was why I was so determined to get this going – to prove stubborn old dad wrong!”
Proving stubborn old dad wrong, however, was a tough task.
The goalposts had already been moved when James’s original target of playing a 50-hour match – in honour of the age his dad was when he died – had to be changed because someone else had set a new world record.
By Guinness rules, each team was allowed only three substitutes who generally played five hours continuously before a two-hour break – stretching the players to the limit.
Although friends and relatives came to visit them playing on the floodlit five-a-side pitch at the Downham Market Academy, only a handful were around for the whole 54 hours.
That meant the players had to get through some of the darkest periods of the game without that vital motivation which comes from a crowd egging them on – especially during periods of heavy rain on the first night.
One of those who took part was 16-year-old Niall Jackson, of Woodland Gardens, March, who is a student at the town’s Neale-Wade Academy.
Niall’s dad, Stuart, who until recently coached the Wimblington youth team, said: “The lads were buzzing on a high when it ended. To see them carry on like they did in memory of one of the dads brought a lump to my throat. It strengthen your belief in human nature. The lads did really well.”
Mrs Salmon, who is vice-chairman of Fenland Rovers and ran a support tent for the players during the match, admitted: “On the first night, I didn’t think they’d do it.
“A lot of us just didn’t totally realise the actual impact it would have on us. We said that we would do this but it was tough. There were a few walking wounded and a few injuries.”
However once they got into a routine and got used to playing through the night, Mrs Salmon said she could sense victory.
During the match James said that he was so determined to make it to the finish that he would have to be dragged off the pitch before giving up on the 54-hour goal.
That determination could not stop his Cut the Crab side from losing out to the Rest of the World in the high-scoring game by 1,066 goals to 1,043 – despite the fact Cut the Crab held approximately a 20-goal advantage for most of the match.
Mrs Salmon said: “It was one of the most fantastic weekends of my life. It was the toughest thing I think they’d ever done and that they’ll ever do.”
Even if the 16 to 18-year-olds hadn’t made the 54-hour target, Mrs Salmon said during the game: “Whether they achieve it or not, the commitment the lads have shown to actually be out here in all weathers meant that they were all winners out there.”
The record still has to be officially confirmed by Guinness, after they have reviewed photographs and eyewitness reports.
However Mrs Salmon said: “We know – we were there and they did it. Every one of them are world record holders in our minds.”
Sponsorship money – thought to be about £2,500 – from the match will go towards the Michelle Sherwood Cancer Fund, a charity set up in memory of a former nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn who died from cancer.