Tuktuk Day Six

One of the things that I have ALWAYS loved about football is the sheer randomness of everything. When I did my physical cycle tour back in 2010 I met literally hundreds of people. Why are they involved? Why do they live in Plymouth but support Sunderland or vice versa. Generally when I arrived at a club I had NO idea what sort of welcome I would get. Some were fantastic (Boro, Bolton Wanderers, Bristol Rovers, Derby County and the two Nottingham Clubs) some were “disappointing” and one or two (Leeds United, Burton Albion) were bad. No rhyme, no reason. I guess it was a bit like the accommodations I stayed at. Some were fantastic (Glossop North End, Bolton Wanderers, Norwich City) others best forgotten about!
Birmingham was not a highlight! the view out was better than the view into the room!

So, today, I was tidying up a trip to the North West when Gareth Thomas. a Twitter follower said, “Hi. Can I help you with Shrewsbury Town? Absolutely love to get involved in the project.” So, welcome to the next 91 clubs, Gareth. I asked him a few questions about his love for football and here comes the copmplete randomness of it ….. he supports Uprising FC? Who? Read on, Macduff. It’s a crazy story and reminds me of how I got involved with Bjorn, “So, you are a Brit who lives in Spain, on holiday in Sweden and you are reading my blog in Norwegian. You can work with me!” If you don’t know the whole story just flip through this site to learn about the Bold, Bald, Brave Man from the North!

UPRISING FC – A club in Anguilla and how I became the club’s Media Officer

As the title suggests, this is the story of how I became the media officer for a football club based on the Caribbean Island of Anguilla despite me living near Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Interviewing people from the world of football is my favourite thing to write about, and it sees me interviewing football players and coaches at all levels of the game around the world. It is indeed doing this that led me to being put into contact with a football enthusiast from Germany by the name of Pascal Panitzsch, who is a fountain of knowledge on all things regarding football in Anguilla and the Caribbean.

I have always enjoyed playing and watching football and started playing the game at 9 years old as a goalkeeper. From the age of 16 I played at a decent level for Shifnal Town FC in the West Midlands Regional League. Unfortunately, I sustained a broken wrist in my early 20’s which kept me out of the game for 18 months and whilst I did continue playing it was never to the same standard and I dropped down the levels, still enjoying my football though!

Approximately seven years ago, I started groundhopping around mainly the West Midlands, Mid Wales area’s and throughout my home county of Shropshire. Groundhopping is a brilliant hobby and is something that I wish I had started doing sooner than I did! I thoroughly enjoy my hobby which has also helped me to fulfil another hobby in my life – writing! 

As a child I can remember writing letters to our local newspaper in Shropshire and to the brilliant Roy of the Rovers magazine about lots of different football related issues.  My passion for writing about the beautiful game has stayed with me for my entire life! When I started groundhopping I soon started my own online football blog called – Gareth’s Football Travels. Initially I just used it to write about my groundhopping adventures, but I also quickly started writing about other football related topics too. These topics include and amongst others – various Football History pieces, Club Profiles, Programme Reviews, and interviews with my players and coaches from around the world.

During a conversation we had on twitter in September 2020, Pascal told me that he was (and still is) the secretary for Uprising FC in Anguilla. As we chatted, he informed me that the club were looking for a media officer and to my immense surprise and delight he asked me if I would fulfil the role. Now, it has always been a dream for me to work in some sort of capacity for a football club, but never did I think in my wildest dreams that an opportunity would come with a club based in the Caribbean and just a month short of my 40th birthday! I of course jumped at the chance and accepted Pascal’s and the club’s kind offer, I am still with the club today, enjoying my role very much too! The voluntary work I carry out for the club covers everything that you would expect any media officer to do at any football club around the world. This includes overseeing our social media platforms, conducting player interviews, and even constructing match reports due to the fact all games in Anguilla are streamed live on YouTube. 

I am about to embark on my first trip to Anguilla (along with two colleagues who like me are based in Europe, Pascal who I have previously mentioned, and Louis Jones, our commercial officer who is based in Lincolnshire), where I will get the opportunity to meet my colleagues and friends at my beloved club. In addition to this, I have also registered as a player for the duration of my stay and there is a chance that I might get some playing time!

I will be writing a book about my experiences in Anguilla and working for Uprising FC as well as talking about some of my other experiences in football over the years.

So, who are Uprising FC I hear you cry – well let me tell you!

Uprising FC were founded in 2015 and are a football club based in The Valley, the capital of the Caribbean Island of Anguilla. Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory and is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying to the east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and to the north of Saint Martin. The territory is made up from the main island of Anguilla together with several other smaller islands and cays and has a total land area of 35 square miles and a population of just over 15,200 people. Uprising FC play their games at the 1300 capacity Raymond E. Guishard Technical Centre (as do all the clubs in Anguilla), in the Pope Hill area of The Valley. The club competes in the Anguilla Football League, the only men’s football league on the island. 

The club’s name was chosen by the core group of players who helped to form the club in 2015. Being a new club, the players knew that they would be considered by other clubs to be underdogs, but they also knew that they had enough potential to rise above those who gave that opinion and to gain some victories.

Since those early days the club has progressed very well and in 2020 were crowned as the Anguilla FA Development League Champions, the first piece of silverware in the club’s short history. That inaugural title has seen the club progress even further and in the 2021 season we finished in an excellent 3rd position. The 2022 season saw our club finishing in 7th place whilst 2023 saw us achieving a runners-up position in the Development League. 

We at Uprising FC are a very ambitious club and we are aiming to be the top club in Anguilla within the next few years. When you consider that several of our players at the club have already played for Anguilla at international level, the most recent lads being Javis Jones, Delani Francis, Defari Francis, and Jauron Gayle who are all still teenagers, then the future looks very bright indeed!

Off the pitch the club is also growing from strength to strength, and we have a group of hard working and committed club members, not just locally in Anguilla but in other countries around the world too. Including myself in Shropshire we also have our aforementioned Secretary Pascal, in Germany and the Lincolnshire based Coventry City supporter, Louis Jones as our club’s Commercial Officer. Louis is also the founder of the excellent family run business Surprise Shirts who are our kit sponsors. Meanwhile, the President of Uprising FC is Tre Gumbs. Tre is only in his mid-20’s and as well as being one of the founding members of the club he holds the quite unique position as being a Player/President and regularly plays for the team on the right of the defence or in midfield. In addition to this he is one of our players who has also previously represented Anguilla at international level. All of the club members, whatever their position maybe are all striving to develop and improve the club on a daily basis. 

Within the last 18 to 24 months, we have started selling official club merchandise which includes and amongst other things official shirts, training tops and pin badges. We have also a seen rapid growth on our social media platforms. This is great news for us as it means that more and more people around the world are getting to hear about us! 

As the saying goes – “Watch This Space”

For more information about Uprising FC please see below:

Website: www.uprisingfc.com

Twitter: @UprisingFC

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

#oneclubonegoal

Words: Gareth Thomas

Now what you need to do is check their first team shirt: Oh, Peru! Oh, Rayo Vallecano! Oh, FC Deportivo Galicia! Did somebody say “sashes?”

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So, from Gillingham, onwards to Anguilla and tomorrow it’s Liverpool. Oh the random nature of football.
….and please do not forget why we are doing this for Prostate Cancer and FC Deportivo Galicia

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