Supporters urged to cheer on DMU Lions in season opener

By Rian Fearnehough

The De Montfort University Lions American football team are calling for students’ support as they begin the season with a tricky test against the historically strong Staffordshire Stallions. 

The DMU Lions have returned to training after a hard couple of years away due to the pandemic and the tough time Leicester had with COVID.

Determined: The DMU Lions in training (Pic: Rian Fearnehough)

Coach Stuart Franklin said: “We want people to come and support the team through the first challenge of a tough season.”

He said the team would love the support for the big season opener as they look to hit the ground running. 

The Staffordshire Stallions started their season on Sunday with a big win over the Huddersfield Hawks 60-12 with the game having to be called off early due to injuries on the part of the Hawks. 

Coach Franklin added: “The pandemic stopped the team from training and playing for over a year, this caused the team to change how they trained.” 

The Lions are ready to compete in the league after a tough season impacted by COVID, the aim is to reach and win the playoffs in the 2021/22 season. 

Supporters can be part of the DMU Lions pride on Sunday at 1pm at Beaumont Park FC, LE4 1ES Leicester.

Big squad: one of the previous Lions line-ups

Leicester City FC: Five years on from winning the league, are the Foxes improving?

By Thomas Carter

This season marks five years since Leicester City’s historic Premier League title win, but with the team observing an inconsistent start to the 2021/22 campaign, their progress is being questioned.

Currently, the Foxes sit at 11th place in the league table, achieving 14 points from their opening ten games.

With that said, the most effective way to evaluate the team’s performances is to look at four key aspects of their game: shooting accuracy, pass accuracy, clean sheets, and a comparison of goals scored and conceded.

Goals (scored v conceded)

In the title-winning season (2015/16), Leicester scored 68 goals, conceding 36, and after a few years of more turbulent scoring records, the team seem to have returned to their high-scoring ways.

Last season, the team scored the same amount as they did in the year they won the league, showing an improvement in attack. However, the more alarming statistic is that they conceded 50 goals, ultimately finishing the campaign in fifth place.

(Credit: Thomas Carter, Canva)

Shooting accuracy (%)

When it comes to shooting, Leicester’s accuracy is one of the more positive statistics of their game, having shown relative consistency in the last six seasons. Last season, the Foxes had an accuracy of 38 per cent, which is an improvement on their title-winning year (34 per cent).

(Credit: Thomas Carter, Canva)

Passing accuracy (%)

Similarly to shooting accuracy, the team has seen steady progress in the last six seasons. Though a slight decrease on the 2019/20 campaign, the Foxes’ most recent season produced a passing accuracy of 82 per cent – a major improvement on five years ago.

(Credit: Thomas Carter, Canva)

Clean sheets

Just as the number of goals conceded has risen, Leicester have struggled to keep clean sheets in recent seasons. The two seasons following their title success were especially difficult, going from keeping 15 clean sheets in 2015/16 to nine. Last year saw some improvement, as the team look to regain some consistency in defensive performances.

(Credit: Thomas Carter, Canva)

Luke Pawley, freelance sports writer and lifelong Foxes fan, said: “It’s been a poor start to the season for Leicester given the standards we’ve come to expect over recent years.

“The squad has definitely moved forward since the title win, despite our struggles so far this season.

“We’ve made it difficult for ourselves, but I believe this squad is more than capable of reaching the top five again and getting out of our Europa League group.”

For more stats on Leicester’s season, visit https://www.premierleague.com/clubs/26/Leicester-City/stats?se=274

DMU alumnus creates football league for students

By Joshua Solomon

Former De Montfort University student Mark Abolaji has created a new football league for students who don’t have a place in the university’s official squads, named ‘Active League’.

Mark, 23, who was raised in East London, Hackney, came to De Montfort University in 2015 and studied Mechanical Engineering and also got a PHD in Business Management in Sport.

Mark had been coaching in Leicester for a year before he was approached by a colleague about an idea of a separate league.

It piqued his interest so he took it further, looking at what was on offer at the university.

After his research he found that the official football squads didn’t take into consideration the hundreds of students who were turned away or didn’t get to have a trial for the university. He wanted to do something about it.

Pioneering: Mark Abolaji, DMU alumni.

Also, during his coaching of DMU teams, he said he has found a disparity between all the players he knows and sees plus the range of ethnicities that they bring from all over the country and those who are lucky enough to be picked for the DMU official teams.

So, with the creation of the ‘Active league’ he wanted a pathway for those who maybe have talent but have not had the opportunity to be seen.

Mark said: “We created the active league for people who wanted to coach and wanted to play. To give them equipment and to be able to have competitive games.”

Mark spoke about his passion for the game of football as that drove him to push on with the league and he knows there are others who have the same passion.

He said: “People need to play football; football wasn’t there when the world was created but football created a new world.”

Mark found that coaching at DMU some of the players didn’t share the love of football that he did. He said: “It’s not that the players don’t love ball, it’s just that they’re here for the what comes along with it. The social.”

Mark’s main aim was to create a ‘football purist environment’. He said: “This platform is for people to express themselves, not only to play football but to coach, ref, record and to support.

“To create comfort for people who love football, because there is no better feeling than having a talk about football.”

Mark also talks about the importance of the league on people’s mental health, especially coming out of a pandemic.

He continued: “Football is a release for some people and a way to block out whatever else is happening. To not have that outlet must have a knock-on effect.

“It’s physical and mental exercise, you’re using your brain and your body, it is a pressure release for people.”

‘The awful day my lifelong dream of playing rugby for Wales died’

‘You can’t play rugby anymore.’ That was the first thing Matthew Childs heard after waking up in hospital from an injury that left him unconcious. This is his story of broken bones and smashed ambitions – and a helicopter rescue on TV

Matthew Childs

Every Sunday morning I was welcomed by the soft rings of my alarm. Most people hate the sound of their alarm, but for me it meant so much more. Yes, I should be in bed after a long week of school, but for me Sunday was the most important day of the week. I’d wake up with butterflies in my stomach, nervous about how well I was going to play, but most importantly because I did not want to get knocked out again. Because getting knocked out would mean my dream of playing rugby for the rest of my life would come hurtling to an abrupt and premature end.

Today would be one of the biggest games of the season, My team was playing our rivals, Driffield, so I had to prepare myself for a physical battle, but nothing could fully prepare me for what was going to happen.

Today would also be the last time I ever walked out onto a rugby pitch as a player.

Rugby was everything to me. Having the ball in my hands felt like I was holding a trophy. Being born in Wales meant, without a doubt, rugby is in my blood. I had played rugby since I was nine and remember watching rugby with my parents and seeing the passion they had and instantly knew that I wanted to be the next big rugby star, so my parents could cheer me on. I was only small when I started playing, but as I got older and continued to play, I got stronger and better. I played for a local team called Pocklington. The blue and white kits were snazzy and as soon as I started playing, I knew that this is what I wanted to do for as long as I could.

Eventually I had trials for Yorkshire. At this point it seemed that everything was coming into place. Then injury struck. I broke my shoulder blade and spent the next few weeks attempting to sleep upright while my bone excruciatingly repaired itself.

Then my life repeated. I had another trial for Yorkshire. All these thoughts were racing through my head, ‘How will it feel to score?’ ‘Am I going to play for the county?’ ‘Are my parents watching?’ Then, SMASH. Two players tackled me and tipped me onto my shoulder. The weight of three people came crashing down, snapping my collar bone along with all my dreams.

I returned to the pitch again, but this is where the injuries took a turn. Up until my injuries this had been the best season of rugby for me. We just kept winning,  I played every game really well, but most importantly this was the year I went to Welsh Exiles. Welsh Exiles are a development team for those that may not live in Wales, but wish to play for them. I had this hope of going to a university in Wales so I could play rugby and eventually get to play professionally. I kept going to the Welsh Exiles training days and although I was not yet playing for them, I looked forward to the day I could get my first uncapped international match.

I said that this was my favourite season, but it was also the one that I hated the most. My first knockout came hurtling towards me like a boulder down a cliff. Waking up laying on a pitch with coats over me, coaches panicking and my mum and dad worried to death was a scary experience. I had to take six weeks out for a concussion. I was upset. Not the upset where you are crying, but upset where you feel like you have let yourself down. The ‘why has this happened to me?’ mentality.

I bought myself a scrum cap to protect my clearly fragile head and returned six weeks later to one of the only places that felt like home. Yet again though, as soon as I returned, I got knocked out. I was in hospital this time and remember being laid down on a bed for so long that when I got up, I passed out. I hate hospitals. The constant beeping, the boredom, the lights that make your eyes hurt, the length of time you have to wait just to hear anything about when you can go home. The doctors told me that I had to be careful. My first knockout was quick and I wasn’t unconscious for a long time, but for the second one I was unconscious for longer. Again, I had to wait six weeks before I could return, and that day could not have come any sooner.

Illustration by Liv Phillips

So, the alarm clock rang that Sunday morning at eight. I was nervous, but I was all good to play this close rival match against Driffield. During my six weeks of recovery all I could think about was being back on the pitch and loving every minute of it. If I only I’d known what was about to happen.

The game was going swimmingly. I was playing really well, and we were winning. The second half came, and it was our kick-off. We kicked the ball high and short as always. I was running towards the flying ball, planning when to jump and contest, but the ball landed sooner than I thought. I charged to make a strong dominant tackle, but as I went in my head connected with an opponent’s shoulder.

Instantly I felt everything coming to an end. My vision started to fade, and then … nothing. All I saw was darkness until I awoke several hours later in hospital with tubes stuck in my arms and a headache that felt like Zeus had just stuck me with a bolt of lightning.

The doctors and my parents looked at me in shock trying to understand why I was unconscious for so long. It turns out I was taken to hospital in a helicopter – which is pretty cool. I have never been in a helicopter so it was a new experience, even if I can’t remember it. The helicopter journey was not any normal ride either because I was filmed for the Helicopter ER TV show.

When the doctor came in to check on me, I had this terrible sense I knew what he was going to say. He said it: I could no longer play rugby, and, in this moment, I experienced my first heartbreak. All my dreams were over. I used to spend every day waiting for the next time I could be on the pitch and now nothing, no dreams, no future in rugby, just nothing.

However, there is a silver lining to my departure. My final moments of rugby were documented on Helicopter ER. I might not be a rugby star, but at least I got on TV.

VIDEO: DMU student reflects on Wembley trip for FA Cup final

By Oliver Taylor

De Montfort University student Luke Pawley was one of the 6,250 Leicester City fans at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 15.

Luke was selected as one of two lucky journalism students to attend the FA Cup final.

With tears in his eyes, Luke watched as the club he has supported for his entire life lifted the trophy for the first time in its history.

Luke said: “I got a message about it first and I thought someone was winding me up! I then got a call and had it confirmed.

“I was there working for DMU as well so I knew I had a job to do there, but the overriding feeling was just pure, personal excitement.”