It was something of a humiliation in Spain last time round.
There, after a weekend being shown round some of Pontevedra’s best bars, the self-proclaimed Sheffield Stags took to the town’s football pitch on Sunday morning – and were duly walloped by the home team 14-2.
“We kept it at 0-0 for five minutes,” winces captain David Thompson. “But even then we were under the cosh. If anything, the score flattered us. We’d perhaps over-indulged.”
Thus, our lads lost the ninth Anglo-Galician Cup – a trophy competed twice yearly by two groups of cross-continental friends; one from right here, one from Spain. Thus, this weekend, as the Iberian boys come to South Yorkshire, there is talk of revenge. “Six months of micky-taking rides on it,” notes David.
And yet this is fast becoming far more than just a footy match between those mates – who all met on a stag do in 2007. It’s now a fully-fledged cultural exchange. For when the Spanish lads arrive, they will not only be hoping to retain the cup – a specially-made monster two-pint vase – they will also be bearing gifts from the civic leaders of their home town, and in turn be treated to a post match tour and lunch at Cutlers’ Hall.
After that, the eight-a-side game will be toasted with a special ale brewed at Kelham Island Brewery, a gig at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios will be held Saturday night and a look at the Spanish Civil War monument in the Peace Garden will be included in a look round the city.
Not bad for a tradition which started life as a hung- over kick-about between a group of Sheffielders on a stag trip to Spain and the local lads they met. Now... well, strictly speaking, it’s still a hung-over kick about between those Steel City boys and the Iberian mates they made that weekend.
But, with all those side events, there can only be one conclusion: this is not just a booze-born run-around, it’s European unity in action.
“That’s exactly right,” says Dave, a 39-year-old civil servant of Station Road, Woodhouse. “The football is secondary in a way to a great weekend. A lot of the lads on both sides have both got young sons and we’ve said on a few times that we’d like them to carry on the tradition.”
He thinks for a second.
“Not that the football isn’t important,” he notes. “It can get passionate out there. We need a referee. There’s usually a few agricultural challenges flying in.”
That first game back in 2007 had no such officials.
David chose to go to the medieval Spanish town because his dad had lived there some years before. He already knew one or two of the lads and they arranged the match, which the Stags won 4-3.
“After that they came over here for a stag do,” says David. “We were sat in The Fat Cat pub after that second game and someone said we should make a trophy and do it every year – so we have.”
The Anglo-Galician Cup kicks off 11am at Gym Plus, in Weston View, Crookes.