Royal Shrovetide Football: Ancient match in Ashbourne begins

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Media captionThe ball was "turned up" to begin the Royal Shrovetide Football game

A fierce game of football that sees two sides looking to score at opposing ends of a town is under way.

The traditional Royal Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, sees the Up'Ards and Down'Ards compete to move a ball to posts at two ends of the town.

A turning up ceremony at 14:00 GMT on Shrove Tuesday started the contest, which is due to finish on Wednesday.

Last year's edition of the centuries-old game ended in a 1-1 draw.

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Image caption Ashbourne's Royal Shrovetide Football match has taken place for centuries

Simon Fisher, 30, a builder from Ashbourne, has been playing for the Up'Ards - those born on the north side of the Henmore River - since he was 15.

He said he scored eight years ago and felt "euphoric".

Image caption Due to the boisterous nature of play, many shops in the town centre are boarded up before it begins
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hand-painted balls from previous editions of the match can be seen on display above the bar at The Wheel Inn before the game

Mr Fisher said: "There's no real feeling that comes close.

"Probably having children and getting married, that's probably as close as it gets.

"It's something you dream about as a kid."

Image caption Up'Ard Simon Fisher said there was no feeling that comes close to scoring a goal in the game

Down'Ard Davina Harrison, 61, who attended the Shrovetide festivities with her father Nick Blood, said: "I was brought up with the game right from an early age, dragged along by my mum, about five years old probably, to watch it.

"In the middle of the hug mainly the women stay away because it's so fierce and it takes a lot out of you.

"I'm carrying water today because the lads will be so exhausted."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The ball was turned up to begin the Royal Shrovetide Football match

Duncan Burnham, 48, and his partner Helen Dickinson, 43, travelled from Burnley for Shrovetide.

Mr Burnham has been attending the matches since he was 21.

He said: "My daughter is 10 years old now and she was born the day before Shrove Tuesday.

"I actually managed to get a day off to come down. I left her in hospital to come down to the football, so I'm a very keen follower."

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