November 7, 2016
During Fresher’s Week at UCD, I stopped by the Societies Tent after class. Before I could take three steps into the tent, I was accosted by several members of the International Students Society, who seduced me to join with their promises of a 7V7 intramural football (soccer) league. A week later, I found myself at the UCD field hockey pitch for my first game, looking for the Team H to which I’d been assigned. I can only assume we were the last team to get to choose our uniforms, because when I finally found my team, I was presented with a long sleeved, neon pink jersey, paid for by my society fee.
In a surprising twist, my team turned out to be almost entirely Irish, with names like Gearoid and Declan, despite the fact that I signed up for the league through the International Students Society. This was a pleasant surprise, as most of my classmates are actually from countries other than Ireland, and the Irish students I do know tend to be about a decade older than I am. We played our first game a man down. Our missing a player and initial disorganization cost us dearly, as we conceded four unanswered goals before we rallied, pushing the game to a tie three times before we ultimately fell, our six goals to their seven.
Immediately after the game ended, while we were all still doubled over and wheezing to catch our breath, the league commissioner came by to ask us what our team name was. We silently stared at each other’s neon pink jerseys at a loss, still in shock from a last-minute goal that went in the other team’s favor. I had spent class earlier that morning learning about zoonotic diseases from livestock, giving particular attention to pigs. As I stared at the neon pink jerseys, coughed into the cold rain, and lamented the fact that we almost certainly would have won in an even-strength match, I halfheartedly muttered what I’m sure everyone else was thinking: “Should we call ourselves swine flu? Then at least no one will want to defend us. Might be easier to score.” The tall, bearded commissioner blinked twice, giggled, and quickly scrawled the name into the official game log before he darted away to record another game score. Thus, a legend was born.
Despite the Swine Flu’s unfortunate defeat in the first game, greener pastures awaited (though of course, all pastures in Ireland are green, and we’ve been playing on artificial field hockey turf where you just slide around, fall, and inevitably scrape your knee anyway). Our second game in which we were supposed to play I lied, I do know Jeff was rescheduled. We then proceeded to win three consecutive games, defeating Ivory Toast, Borussia Teeth, and The Virgins by a combined ten goals. I tend to prowl the back line as a center-back, mugging aspiring goal-scorers who get too close to our goalie and launching long-distance shots that occasionally find the back of the net, but more often hit a defender in a sensitive part of their body and then bounce out of bounds. It’s been good craic, as the Irish say. I’m not sure if they hold playoffs in Irish beer-league soccer, but if they do, I’m 63% confident that Swine Flu is ready.