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Written by:
Paul Holland
24 Jun 2021

With UEFA’s Euro 2020 competition in full flow everyone is talking about one of football’s biggest competitions. But this weekend the world’s oldest football club is about to take to the pitch in what is one of the longest-running competitions in the world.

Cambridge University Association Football Club (CUAFC) take on their Oxford counterparts on 26 June, and a Trinity Hall fourth year is their captain.

Alex Bull, who studies MML (Modern and Medieval Languages) at Trinity Hall, took on the role in this (his final) year, having played for the Cambridge light blue first XI twice and once for the second XI.

The team’s history doesn’t phase him – in fact, it spurs him on.

“I find football a really good way to let off steam. It’s really something that we are the oldest club as recognised by the FA,” said Alex.

Founded in 1856, CUAFC is the oldest football club in the world. Its prime position in the footballing world was recognised in 2016 when the club was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.

The city of Cambridge has long been synonymous with footballing history. A decade before the club’s official foundation, in 1846, the ‘Cambridge Rules’ of football were drawn up by university footballers from several public schools, laying the foundations for football as we know it today.

Alex, aged just 21, has a slightly shorter history in the game – but it does go back to his youth.

“I’ve always been obsessed with the game. I’ve always been playing football, even during exam periods. My parents made sure I also focused on my academic work, and I really think playing has helped my studies. It’s made my studies really focused and organised. It sounds like a cliché but I honestly think playing football, and having to fit that around my studies, has made me a better student.”

Playing football at university has opened doors around the world for the young player whose skills have seen him play football as far afield as China. In 2018 he played with CUAFC in the third annual World Elite University Football Tournament held in Wuhan.

The future is a bit of an open book for Alex at the moment. One of the benefits of studying MML was his year abroad. He spent six months in France and then travelled to Germany where, alongside studies, he played for a German team.

“I’m not set on anything yet but the idea of going back to Germany and getting some work while I play for a team like that is really appealing. Ultimately MML is a broad subject, not focussed on one career path, so there’s a lot of choice. I’d like to stay close to football, whatever I do.”

Of course, COVID has affected his studies and football. Alex’s year abroad was cut short by the global Coronavirus crisis. Lockdown has been a challenge for the team but they’ve coped amazingly he said.

“We managed to train for half of Michaelmas Term this year and then we were all having to train as best we could, apart. We’ve put in a lot of training since returning this term.”

Some of that training included Alex working on his excellent freestyle skills as well as the skills he’ll need on the pitch on 26 June when he plays against Oxford.

The opportunities playing for Cambridge include being coached by former England manager Jez George (in Alex’s first year) and now by former Spurs player Allan Cockram.

Being captain is wonderful says Alex, especially working with the team. But there are some aspects he wasn’t prepared for.

“I’ve just finished picking up the club kit and taking it to get all the right names and numbers put on ahead of the Varsity match. And we’ve organised the travel so we’re set to go. I don’t think I’d realised how much organisation was required when I took the job.”

For more on CUAFC and the Varsity match see the team’s webpages.