NEVER before has it been so acceptable for 17 and 18 year old boys to cry, openly and publicly.
They’re at that point which boys reach, you know, the one where they establish themselves as masculine characters, where they impress their friends, where they impress girls and that stage where they just enjoy being young.
Yet, this all stopped, or at least, paused, for a moment. You know you have come across something pretty powerful when the boys I’ve just described can be reduced to tears.
Thursday May 30th was the day and the occasion was one where tears often flow so freely, it was a funeral.
But this was a different funeral. Peter Ellis passed away 9 days earlier and the service was only fitting to celebrate such a fantastic person. It was everything you could hope for from a funeral service.
I must mention Peter’s son, daughter and brother who all spoke at the service and did an outstanding job. I have no doubt big Pete would be proud.
Personally, I had lost not only a football coach, but a friend, and a friend who taught me more than just football. Pete’s ethics were so incredibly honourable. I was quite upset but managed to hold myself together.
But what got to me most was the people in attendance. As is customary at funerals, friends and family were invited to place some rosemary on the coffin, as a symbol of remembrance.
I’ll never forget this moment. It was my chance to say goodbye to Pete and my little way of thanking him and ensuring him I’ll never forget what he did for me.
It was strange as I approached and stood over the coffin, it was like I was completely alone in the room, just me and Pete. I could no longer feel the presence of Mum beside me, or the man who placed some rosemary in front of me, nor the hundreds of people watching on.
I placed the rosemary down, my mind replaying all the great memories I had, and then I headed back to where Mum and I were standing.
But the presence of all those around me returned when I glanced up. To my right were a group of elderly people, men and women. To my left were a group of middle aged people.
But straight ahead were a group of young men.
There were about 30 or 40 of them, all decked out in their Claremont Football Club attire. What hit me hardest were their tears. These young boys had lost a coach who clearly meant so much, and they sobbed.
I returned to my post and coincidence would have it that the man I was standing next to was a man who coached me, alongside Pete, when I was a junior.
As the music was ending and all the Rosemary had been placed, I took another glance towards this group of young men. A tall, fairly lean boy was noticeably upset, tears streaming down his face. The boy next to him saw this and didn’t think twice, put his hand around his shoulder and tucked his mate’s head to his chest. It may not seem like much but it was an act which goes completely against the social norms of young males. An act that made me quite proud.
So why have I bothered to write about what I saw? Because it is so incredible to see what a football club can do to people.
The very reason I was in attendance was because of the contact I had with Pete as a junior, through the Carine Junior Football Club. Needless to say, he had an impact on my life. In fact I was consciously thinking about him and some of the things he taught me just days before he passed.
I can also say with a fair degree of confidence that half of the people in that room were there because they had met Peter through football. I knew a lot of them and all had nothing but good things to say about a good man.
And the young men I described mostly belonged to the Claremont Football Club colts team. Yes, there were a few senior players in attendance who knew Pete but it was those 30 or 40 young men who did him most proud.
They conducted themselves exactly the way he envisaged and it was clear to me that what Peter taught me at Carine JFC was the same at Claremont FC and indeed, every club he went to.
These boys had lost a leader but needed each other because this wasn’t an easy day, and the next few would be hard too. They did exactly this. They leant on each other, physically and metaphorically, the way big Pete would have wanted.
This is what the best football clubs do to people. If you are willing to give, the club will give back and when you need a hand, it’s there for you. These boys give their best, not only as footballers but also as people. I’m not a part of the Claremont football club, but from what I hear, the culture is outstanding. And what I saw on that Thursday morning, I have no doubt. Young men willing to forget the “norm” to do what is necessary. Young men who are there for each other.
I play at North Beach Football Club, a club which Pete didn’t have too much association with, yet I’d still see him down there occasionally, watching some of his protégés who were playing for the red and gold.
I had a game four days after Pete passed away. It so happened that I was elevated to our second highest team that week which was an honour and a great compliment. I was nervous but I actually felt it was fitting because I ran onto the field that day knowing I was more than capable of competing, because Pete had always told me that I had endless possibilities.
In memory of Pete, and as a way to mark his influence on me, I wore a black arm band that day. I was the only one in my team to do so, which is absolutely fine because none of the other boys knew him. But I felt an acceptance from them all, some of whom I’d met properly for the first time that day.
A couple of guys asked who it was for, the rest just accepted that I was hurting and that they would do all they could to help me out. This is North Beach Football Club to a tee. The second you pull on the same jumper, you’re all working towards the same thing, for each other. No questions asked.
North Beach and Claremont FC are the benchmark of club spirit, I am fairly certain of this. But it’s not to say this type of spirit doesn’t exist elsewhere.
I am a product of those who have taught and guided me through my footy but also through life. Peter was one such person who I’ll never forget.
What Pete gave to each footy club he went through is an example and one that I will continually try to follow.
A footy club can so often be much more than a place to play the game we love. It’s a place that we can turn to during hard times. It’s a place where the people will not judge but rather, embrace.
To take a quote from a video North Beach FC put together…
“It’s not the flags on the wall, it’s the people in the hall”.
Peter was 66. He was everything you could ask for in a coach, as a person and as a contributor to football.
A great man and a great friend who will be sorely missed.
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Mark is one of FFPress’ contributors. You can meet the rest of the team [here].