When I moved to London in August 2016, I quickly became involved with Football Beyond Borders as a volunteer for their schools programme at Chestnut Grove Academy. I figured it would be a great way to apply my teaching skills while simultaneously studying for my degree. The members of FBB with whom I regularly interacted quickly became good friends, and I have very much enjoyed participating in additional sessions and FBB sponsored events like tours and half-term tournaments. Having grown up playing baseball and tennis, my footballing skills are, quite frankly, abysmal.
The morning after my 30th birthday, the legend that is Jack Reynolds approached me enthusiastically about a fundraising opportunity for FBB that would make use of my cycling skills. Even in my less-than-fresh state, I agreed to participate as I’ve always enjoyed a leisurely bike ride. I also figured I could easily raise £100 in a month’s time, as this was the fundraising goal for each rider. The remainder of August was spent almost exclusively in a library, hastily finishing my dissertation before it’s September 1 due date. Relieved that I had now finished said dissertation, I now realized I hadn’t raised a single dollar, pound, euro, yen, or peso. These were trying times, and just when I felt I was on the brink of fundraising failure, an email pinged in my inbox from FBB titled “Fundraising tips for all you procrastinators out there”. And just like that, the sun broke through the clouds, and through the power of a few carefully worded direct messages and personal emails, the fundraising started. I am happy to say that all in all, I received fundraising contributions in excess of £500 when all was said and done. Truthfully, I think the message and ethos of FBB is communicated with such clarity and vision that people genuinely want to contribute in any way they can.
I awoke at 6:30 am feeling rather tired. In addition to studying and working with FBB, I occasionally bartend, as I had the night before, only to get off work at rough 3:00 am. Surprisingly, as soon as I left Tooting, I knew it was going to be a great day. In a city like London, it is rare to feel alone on the roads, but such was the case early on a Sunday. Meeting at Trafalgar square, I arrived not to the sight of loads of tourists, but to a rag-tag group of cyclists, and a few maintenance workers power-washing the grit and grime off the pavement.
We quickly agreed on a route that would take us north first, then west, south, east, and finally back to Stratford. It was at this point that I informed my teammates I was due to catch a train to Devon at 3:00 pm to spend a couple days with my fiance and her family, which meant I would likely be unable to finish the ride. Speaking of teammates, I must brag about how awesome it was to ride with Jack Reynolds, Will Murphey and Daniel Straulino. With these three, you might say “the road goes on forever, and the banter never stops”. Each of these guys encountered problems along the way that would make most riders want to quit: Straulino nearly colliding with a group of clueless pedestrians, and a questionable snapping sound coming from his bike after riding over a pothole; Murphey with the flat tire; and J-Rey with a thorn lodged in his left eye. Despite these challenges, they each persevered and ultimately were the first group to finish the ride, not that it was a RACE or anything (it was).
I can say with absolute certainty that I will be reprising my role in the FBB Stadium Challenge next year, and hopefully we can multiply our efforts to make it an even bigger and better event. I imagine in years to come we’ll have the likes of Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins riding alongside, but I’ll always be inspired by the 25 cyclists who participated in the 1st ever FBB challenge.
Sam Wofford has been part of the FBB family for over a year now and we are happy to have join our staff team this year!