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Shrovetide Football: Shrove Tuesday players have a ball

By Richard Vernalls

Published 09/02/2016

Competitors reach for the ball after it is 'turned up' to start the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016 between the two opposing team's, the Up'ards and the Down'ards. AFP/Getty Images
Competitors reach for the ball after it is 'turned up' to start the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016 between the two opposing team's, the Up'ards and the Down'ards. AFP/Getty Images
Rival teams the 'Up'ards and Down'ards' battle for the ball during the annual Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 'no rules' football match on February 9, 2016 in Ashbourne, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
ASHBOURNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Rival teams the 'Up'ards and Down'ards' battle for the ball during the annual Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 'no rules' football match on February 9, 2016 in Ashbourne, England. Played since the 17th Century, the annual Shrovetide Football Match sees teams from opposite ends of the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne aim to get a ball into one of two goals that are positioned three miles apart at either end of Ashboune. The game has 'no rules' and can sometimes end in injury and damage to property although volunteer stewards keep a watchful eye for any serious foul play or possible damage. The match starts on Shrove Tuesday and can last until 10 PM. If a goal is scored before 6 PM then a new ball is 'turned up' again and a new game started. If the goal is after 6 PM then the game ends for that day and continues into the next day, known as Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
ASHBOURNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Rival teams the 'Up'ards and Down'ards' battle for the ball during the annual Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 'no rules' football match on February 9, 2016 in Ashbourne, England. Played since the 17th Century, the annual Shrovetide Football Match sees teams from opposite ends of the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne aim to get a ball into one of two goals that are positioned three miles apart at either end of Ashboune. The game has 'no rules' and can sometimes end in injury and damage to property although volunteer stewards keep a watchful eye for any serious foul play or possible damage. The match starts on Shrove Tuesday and can last until 10 PM. If a goal is scored before 6 PM then a new ball is 'turned up' again and a new game started. If the goal is after 6 PM then the game ends for that day and continues into the next day, known as Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
ASHBOURNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Rival teams the 'Up'ards and Down'ards' battle for the ball during the annual Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 'no rules' football match on February 9, 2016 in Ashbourne, England. Played since the 17th Century, the annual Shrovetide Football Match sees teams from opposite ends of the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne aim to get a ball into one of two goals that are positioned three miles apart at either end of Ashboune. The game has 'no rules' and can sometimes end in injury and damage to property although volunteer stewards keep a watchful eye for any serious foul play or possible damage. The match starts on Shrove Tuesday and can last until 10 PM. If a goal is scored before 6 PM then a new ball is 'turned up' again and a new game started. If the goal is after 6 PM then the game ends for that day and continues into the next day, known as Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
A competitor takes possession of the ball as from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, take part in the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
People watch as opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, take part in the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
ASHBOURNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Rival teams the 'Up'ards and Down'ards' battle for the ball during the annual Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 'no rules' football match on February 9, 2016 in Ashbourne, England. Played since the 17th Century, the annual Shrovetide Football Match sees teams from opposite ends of the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne aim to get a ball into one of two goals that are positioned three miles apart at either end of Ashboune. The game has 'no rules' and can sometimes end in injury and damage to property although volunteer stewards keep a watchful eye for any serious foul play or possible damage. The match starts on Shrove Tuesday and can last until 10 PM. If a goal is scored before 6 PM then a new ball is 'turned up' again and a new game started. If the goal is after 6 PM then the game ends for that day and continues into the next day, known as Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, take part in the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
OLNEY, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Race winner Lianne Fisher enters St Peter and St Paul Church for a Shrovetide service after running a record time of 55.02 seconds in the annual Shrove Tuesday trans-Atlantic pancake race on February 9, 2016 in Olney, England. On Shrove Tuesday every year the ladies of Olney, Buckinghamshire compete in a Pancake Race, a tradition which dates back to 1445. Children from Olney schools also take part in their own races. Olney competes every year against the women of Liberal, Kansas, USA in a friendly race dating back to 1950. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, northern England, on February 9, 2016. The mass-participation ball game involves two teams, whose players are defined by which side of a small brook that bisects the town they were born, aiming to score a goal, which are some three miles apart. The game, which has very few rules, is played over two 8 hour periods on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Royal Shrovetide Football is believed to have been played annually in Ashbourne since 1667. / AFP / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

The historic Royal Shrovetide Football match which "tries the pluck of an Englishman" ended in a goal after a gruelling contest involving hundreds of players.

Thousands watched the often chaotic action sweep back and forth through the streets all afternoon in the market town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire on the first of a two-day struggle.

Traditionally pitting the Up'Ards - anyone born north of Henmore Brook which divides the town - and Down'Ards, it was the Up'Ards who "goaled" after just over three hours of ceaseless play.

At just after 5pm, one of their number struck the ball three times, as the ancient rules dictate, at Sturston goal on the east side of Ashbourne.

As is customary, the action had earlier kicked off with the "turning-up" of the ball at Shawcroft car park where well over 2,000 people had gathered for the unusual Pancake Day spectacle.

The painted ball was lofted into the crowd slightly later than the scheduled 2pm start, sending unprepared on-lookers scattering for cover as the serious players grappled for the prize.

Play then spilled out through the yard of a local butcher's shop and into the main street.

Lorries and even a local school bus, trapped by the road closures, became the centre of the frenetic action as the ball rolled underneath the vehicles.

At one point, Up'Ard players tried to smuggle the ball along the chilly waters of the brook but were turned back.

Steam started to rise off both sets of teams as the tide of play ebbed and flowed across the streets, with players using road signs and shop barricades to gain any advantage and free the ball from their opponents' grasp.

However, a late break saw the Up'Ards dash across the town's bridge where they were halted near the No. 108 bus service from Leek, much to the bemusement of its passengers.

Then as the sun began to set, the Up'Ards' runners made a break with ball in hand to land the winning goal.

Veteran player 54-year-old Roy Murfin, preparing for the day's action with a pint at the George and Dragon, said he had first seen the match aged six.

The Ashbourne resident said his worst injuries were "sprained ankles and cracked ribs" but that the action was always "in good humour".

Asked how the players cope with the relentless action, he said: "You have to keep coming out and others go in, because you get so hot."

"If you do get pulled down, then they usually pick you back up.

"One year we had a fella who kept falling down, and we would pick him up.

"We lifted him up, and his artificial leg fell off."

He added: "By and large, it's pretty good natured."

The action will begin again tomorrow, which is traditionally a more local affair with less outside visitors joining in the action.

On Wednesday, the ball will be "turned-up" by D-Day veteran Bill Milward of Ashbourne on what will be his 100th birthday.

He will join the likes of the Prince of Wales and Sir Stanley Matthews, who have also shared the honour.

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