On Sunday afternoon, the annual Floorball Cuppers tournament took place at the Iffley Road Sports Centre. Although it is a fairly unknown sport in the UK, floorball is a popular sport in Northern and Central Europe, particularly in Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. The sport is a form of indoor hockey quite similar to ice hockey or field hockey; it is a fast paced game played with a curved stick and a hollow ball.
Since teams were limited to a maximum of two first-team players, most players picked up a floorball stick for the first time in their lives on Sunday afternoon. Zachary Lim, captain of the Catz team, was overjoyed by the large number of new players. Speaking to Cherwell he said, “Floorball Cuppers was a thrilling experience! Seeing so many new faces pick up a floorball stick for the first time and enjoying the sport was such a delight!”
Beginners found it surprisingly easy to pick up the basics of floorball, but most found it difficult to learn the skills that can only be gained through experience, such as positioning and stick handling. Saad Rana, a relatively inexperienced Keble player, recognised the importance of off-ball movement. “Being a striker is more about what you do when you don’t have the ball. Applying high pressure up the field to force a mistake from the opponent is an incredibly important but difficult skill to master. Moreover, you need to be willing to go wide and set up a goal for your teammates. This tournament was a great way to put my skills against some of the best defenders in the university and learn some new things along the way,” he told Cherwell.
Six teams from several colleges entered the tournament, including last year’s winners, Green Templeton College. Coming in as favourites to win the tournament for a second consecutive year, there was a lot of pressure on them to perform well. However, a poor defensive record and a lack of preparation saw the Green Templeton team get eliminated in the group stage. Despite their disappointing performance, Johan Cassel, captain of Green Templeton, enjoyed the competition, and reported that despite the college’s unsuccessful run this year, the competition as a whole was still fun to compete in. When asked why he felt his college had experienced a drop in performance, he suggested that the other teams had turned up to the tournament much better prepared this year. His team did get some consolation, however, after their convincing win over Teddy Hall in the match for fifth place.
Despite looking like one of the weakest teams on paper, the inexperienced Keble team came undefeated in the group stage. Against all the odds, with some incredible chemistry and defensive organisation, Keble beat Catz in the semi-final. In the final, they had to face the team from Harris Manchester College, who had just come from an extraordinary 7-0 win in their semi-final, and looked like the favourites to win the trophy.
The Keble team knew it would be difficult, but they were fixed on winning the Cuppers trophy. An early goal from Harris Manchester turned the match into an uphill battle for Keble. However, they were determined to put up a fight. Keble striker Saad Rana hit the post from an excellent pass by his teammate straight after they conceded, but it wasn’t enough. In the second period, the match went from bad to worse for Keble, as Harris Manchester scored their second goal of the final. In the dying moments of the period, Isaac Ettedgui, Keble’s star striker, scored his third goal of the day to make the game 2-1, giving some hope to the Keble team, as winning the Cuppers trophy now became more of a possibility for them. Despite this, in the last period of the game, the small size of Keble’s squad became apparent. Most teams were composed of six or seven players, but Keble’s team only had five members, meaning they were unable to make any substitutions. As the Keble players grew tired, Harris Manchester found themselves having more space and were able to capitalise on this advantage. They scored one more goal to seal their victory, and Harris Manchester were crowned Floorball Cuppers champions.
The Keble players, although disappointed that they could not snatch a win, were nevertheless proud of their performance. “Cuppers was an emotional rollercoaster: from the ecstasy of victories to the despair at missing out on silverware, Floorball Cuppers epitomises why floorball is such a captivating sport,” Keble’s enthusiastic defender Omar Mohamed told Cherwell. Sylvester Siew, captain of the victorious Harris Manchester team, was not only proud of his team, but also highlighted the admirable sportsmanship which was observed throughout the tournament. Speaking to Cherwell he said, “Every team was giving it their all, fiercely competing on the field. Yet at the end of it all they were all congratulating one another! It was really nice to see suchsportsmanship.”
Despite intense competition for the Cuppers trophy, many players had come to Cuppers simply to try something new or to have a fun afternoon. Julian Quak, an experienced defender who played for Teddy Hall, emphasised the importance of this tournament for beginners. “It was a tough and highly competitive tournament, and allowed many new players the opportunity to experience and enjoy floorball in a competitive setting. Overall it was a great experience and I am already looking forward to next year’s tournament.”
Next up for the floorball club is a one-day university tournament at Iffley Road where they will be taking on the likes of Bath, Nottingham, UCL, Warwick and York to battle it to win the largest university floorball tournament of the academic year.