Tuesday lunchtime saw the end of the SPEIF (semaine préparatoire pour étudiants ingénieurs en Français – a stunning acronym). With our free afternoon a group of us students had hatched a plan to play football. The day before, one of our number spoke to the manager of the Pont’s sports pitches and said it would be no problem. However, when we turned up on Tuesday we were told that we weren’t able to use the pitches because we were not part of a registered team. I have to say that I wasn’t as surprised as some of my would-be team-mates as I had heard similar tales regarding extra-curricular activities at French universities. The trend seems to be that if it is not sanctioned as a registered team event then the doors or gates will be remain locked. I suspect for example that if I try and set up a band I won’t be able to use the practice rooms unless I can demonstrate my proficiency on the rhythm guitar.
The trouble is that we didn’t want to set up a team, we just wanted to have a kick-around. And even if we had tried to set up a team I wouldn’t have been able to join as I can’t join the sports club, the reason being that I don’t have a vaccine card to prove that I won’t get whooping cough as I step up to the penalty spot and sue the school. In this respect, either I try and dig through the annals of the NHS to find out if I have such a card, or I turn my arm into a pincushion and have all the jabs again at the same time and risk sending my immune system crazy. No, neither of these options were an option, so to speak. I was intent on finding some public space in the Cité Déscarts where we could play. The only large open space that isn’t fenced off is that in front of Les Ponts, a couple of acres that would have been perfect for football had it not been landscaped with long parallel ripples half a metre or so in height that would have made it difficult to play. I might even go so far as to suggesting that it had been landscaped in this way to stop us from playing.
Still, unflapped by another apparent barrier, we used our keen engineering eyes to survey the plot and found that between two of the ridges there was just about enough space if we played partially on the grass and partially on the helipad at one end of the field. With laptop cases for goal posts we were all set.
Apart from Michi who I think has had some pretty top-notch football experience, we were all tired after about ten minutes, (such are the barriers to exercise in France!) but we played for an hour or so. And no one was really keeping score – it was great just to have been able to play.