It seems like yesterday I was on a pitch somewhere in south London playing a match with him. It just makes you appreciate how short life is and how things can turn any minute…
These were the words I was seeing as tribute on the Imperial Mens 4th team hockey website as I just joined the squad in 2002. It had only been a few months since a hockey player from the squad passed away due to cancer during that summer. There were many tributes and they were truly touching. The squad of the time was in shock and contemplation.
And to me those many tributes set the scene that was to follow in my next 5 seasons of hockey playing. It isn’t about winning or losing, it is about friends, camaraderie, having a great time and appreciating what life has to offer.
And so last weekend I was carrying a sports cup in one hand and the helping the keeper carry the keepers kit with the other. Passing people on the tube were curios to what this cup was all about and one or two even asked us and chatted. We were happy as we’d won the cup! I was more happy that the cup itself was there as it had been a long ride to get the cup made and honoured in the first place.
After the loss of our player in summer 2002 the team of the time had immediately wowed to commemorate Jim’s life and have a memorial pot placed in Imperial College Union. This was to be awarded to the member of the team who contributed the most, be it on or off the pitch, socially or athletically.
There were a few memorial cups for first hockey squads already. Full hockey seasons came and went and the memory of Jim Chapman faded through the years but there was still no cup. But with some of us the drive to get the cup out there remained. Towards my last seasons I went with some of the senior players to the union to see if we can get this cup going. But sadly union rules, red tape and the expense of setting up the cup lead to some dejected looks. I still remember that moment of disappointment in the union office…
We weren’t going to give up though, so instead of going through official union channels, we did what we always did.
Ignore the powers above and go ahead on our own!
So we all pitched up some money, got a cup engraved and decided that the cup would be used for the “Jim Chapman” match. A match to be played between the current squad of the men’s hockey IVs team and those with the old boys. The men’s team had only been going for a few years but by 2006 there were enough old boys to warrant such a match.
In 2006 such a match did indeed take place!
And these matches have since continued. It has now been 8 summers since that untimely death and many of the current squad would have no idea of who Jim Chapman was, indeed even I never met him. But that’s not nearly as important as the unifying effect he’s had on the team and somehow over the years the ethos and culture of the team has been preserved intact. There is a direct lineage from the current squad that can be traced back to those early days. And for us old boys it is just great to go back and re-visit. I haven’t missed a single one of these matches so far and look forward to the next one 🙂
And that’s what a sport cup means to me. The embodiment of the team ethos and the gathering of friends to celebrate team spirit.