Humans of Melbourne University Soccer Club: Oscar Black
In the second instalment of Humans of Melbourne University Soccer Club, we talk to none other than Oscar Black. Whilst Oscar wishes he was from Manchester, he’s a Melbourne boy growing up regionally in Bendigo/Castlemaine. He is currently completing his Bachelor of Arts here at the University majoring in Politics. With a passion for “cold winters, anything football and Oasis”, we will explore Oscar’s connection with the club and the experiences it has granted him.
Thanks for this opportunity to let us get to know you! Firstly, what was your motivation to join the Melbourne University Soccer Club?
The year before I started University (2016) I was playing u/20s NPL for Avondale Heights FC. After deciding that I didn’t want commit myself mentally and physically (4 nights a week training, long hours of travel for away games) to that level of football anymore I started looking for a club at a lower level where I could still enjoy my football in a less stressful environment. Not really knowing anyone after moving down from Bendigo, I was also looking to meet new people and forge some new relationships. Previous experience had told me football was a great way of achieving this. After attending several preseason trials, I was adamant that it would be perfect for me. Not only for the convenience and cost, but I was about to go enter an exciting new period of time and there were so many people I was sure I would able to share the experience with.
In your opinion, what do you feel are the main benefits of playing at MUSC?
I think in my perspective I have been totally fulfilled playing for the club. I am enjoying my football the most I probably ever have done. For me now, football is more social experience. I am not too concerned with going out to try win every game with a do-or-die attitude (as nice as it is to win) anymore. Instead I enjoy the fact that I can allocate a portion of my time each week to football which is a great release from study. I get to play and socialise with an amazing group to people who are each unique and brilliant in their own right. Within a year and half, I have already made life-long friends and enjoyed as much banter as is probably appropriate for one person. On top of the social aspect I have come to appreciate how much effort is put into the club by certain individuals such as Tom Mullumby, Michael Owen and Clare Browne. Having shifted from clubs with lots of financial backing (South Melbourne, Avondale) and major sponsorship where you are not really informed on how the club runs, it has been great to be able to volunteer my time when I can and feel that I am really contributing to the club. It has definitely made me more appreciative of people acting out of goodwill and purely their passion for the game and for this club.
Has there been a favourite season at MUSC, if so why?
Considering I have only played one full season but as we are already storming through this one, I think it’s a bit premature to name a favourite season. However, my first season last year was so great there was no doubt in my mind about wanting to make this a lifelong commitment. In 2017, I made some amazing mates and played some great football to match with them. While I plied most of my trade in the state 3 reserves I felt the ‘ressies’ boys commanded a special aura that really materialised in Euan Roberts pre-game talks that would basically eventuate in us all laughing our way on to the field. While I copped my fair share of jovial banter, I wouldn’t have any problem stepping out with those guys again. The season, especially at the beginning, was a real platform to relax and let go a bit as study at times could get pretty hectic (especially if you like leaving things to the last minute like me). In saying that, this current season has already been a success in my eyes as I see a really great team culture forming that makes it a pleasure to attend training and both seniors and reserves games on the weekend.
Very nice! Sounds like each season has something special to it. What is your current Involvement with the Club?
At the moment I am a member of the club general committee and specifically lead the Matchday and volunteering sub group (together with Carlo and Darcy Robinson). This role involves presenting ideas about ways we can get more engagement on game days through both volunteering and support between the large group of players and teams we have. We have played a hand in devising ways to promote a club culture that is visible to people outside the club. This includes making the pavilion a social and welcoming space on Fridays and the weekend. It has been great to see so many people volunteer their time and even just come and watch a game in their spare time. I definitely think there has been an improvement from last season in the respect. I think that once people actually understand that everyone that has a significant role at the club is a volunteer, they are more than happy to help out in any way they can. That’s what makes the club so great. I think I could speak for most when I say that we all share a passion for football that extends outside of the field and you really get this vibe if you spend some time on the side-lines or around the north pavilion.
In your relatively short time at the club, has there been a standout coach/player?
I would say Euan Roberts who I previously mentioned (state 3 reserves last year and state 5 seniors this year) has had a positive impact on me as person. Never one to shy away from a craft beer or a post on untapped, he was just a much a mate as he was a coach with us last year. He was a great person which I think made us respect him just as much at training and on game days. As for the best player I have played with so far, on a good day it would have to be ‘slippery’ Sean Michael. Sean is one of the only players I would prefer not to defend because he runs circles around everyone including me sometimes. He might claim he gets played out of position on the wing, but he does a mighty fine job working the opposing fullbacks senseless with his pace and change of direction. And he loves Oasis too, you can’t really top that.
Haha no arguments there… Do you have any particularly memorable experiences relating to your sports activities?
The most memorable experience I have had with my football is trialling for Middlesbrough FC (in the playoffs to be promoted once again to the EPL) when I was 16 (2015) in Darlington, England. During a family holiday through Europe in our summer holidays (their winter), our final destination was Darlington where my father was born and lived until he migrated here at the age of 15. It was incredible to be given the opportunity to train for a week at ‘Rockliffe Park’ in state of the art facilities. I got an insight into what makes the top professional footballer. The kids I played with had been at the academy since they were 6 and most attended school at the facilities. As much as it is a cliché, these kids ‘lived and breathed’ football. As much as I had hopes that might ask me to stay on, the player in my position left back at the time was playing for England u/17 which really put my own footballing life into perspective. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish and probably milk for quite a while.
Wow, what an experience! Besides sports, do you have any other hobbies or passions?
I love to be out an about when I can, whether it is seeing some live music or enjoying good company and drinks. Music is a big passion. I don’t play an instrument but I am very much a fan of music. Anything from late 80’s to mid 90’s England (Oasis, Blur, Stone Roses, The Verve, Happy Mondays I could go on for ever) I will devour and I have a particular love for techno while I’m studying at night. I am also an enthusiast of the video game Age of Empires 2 (I think we can consider it retro as it is almost 20 years old). It’s a fun and light-hearted way to pass the time and it’s always a good thing to keep to the roots of your childhood (call me nostalgic).
What a balanced life! Now I have to ask… Has there been a memorable goal at the club?
I can’t recall actually scoring at all last year but I will claim a goal from a few weeks ago that was disallowed. I chipped the keeper from outside the box and hit the cross bar and went over the line apparently, unbeknownst to the referee. At least the many on lookers corroborated that the ball did in fact go in but I was robbed of an infrequent goal. I don’t tend to get that close to the goal to often as I normally play LB/CB.
I’d claim that any day of the week…
Now you’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the National University Games, Varsity and World Elite University Football Tournament (WEUFT) teams. What were some of the standout experiences?
I have had the pleasure of participating in all three events last year and will be doing so again this year. This year as well, I am helping Tom Mullumby (our coach) in a team manger role for the representative team. First of all, the varsity challenge in first semester against Monash is great. I am fully aware of the intense rivalry between the two universities but it is great to have an added rivalry between the two football teams as many of the players in both teams play against each other for their clubs as well. The games are incredibly fast paced and many wayward tackles are thrown. Both last year and this year we were able to win the game at Monash as an extra insult to injury for them. In particular, this year we were able to come back from 2-0 down to win 5-4 on penalties after drawing 3-3 at full time.
I also went to WEUFT which took place in Beijing and what an experience that was. It was my first time in Asia and I was blown away by Beijing as a city. It is pretty hard to fathom the scale of it considering the population, the traffic and the density. This was for me a special aspect of the tournament that I relished. Being able to experience a different culture while travelling with my university is an experience I feel very privileged to have been able to undertake. Perhaps the highlight was standing at the highest point of the Great Wall of China (Badaling) during one of the cultural excursion we undertook. I may never have gotten the opportunity to be able to witness such a momentous cultural site without WEUFT. On the whole, it was a brilliant opportunity to represent the university internationally. On par with this was the closing ceremony for the tournament held at Tsinghua University in which we got to wear the University blazers and perform own rendition of Timbalands ‘Apologise’ to a mildly confused crowd of spectators. It is an honour to do so while standing alongside many other prestigious universities (Cambridge, Oxford, USC, Leiden etc.).
I also went to National Uni Games in the Gold Coast which was special in its own right. There was a special energy around during that week. It is pretty inspiring to see so many university students playing sport and being competitive in a healthy way. These games were a brilliant opportunity to again travel with the varsity team domestically. There were many memorable moments, too many to talk about in one paragraph but I would stress both the high level of football that we played while also having the freedom to socialise at night and really enjoy the week as a team. Again, I met many new people and made some great friendships over hilarious things. The weather made it a joy and I hope that we are able to keep sending football teams to National Uni Games.
If anyone ever gets the chance to represent the university through sport, especially football, I would 100% recommend them to do it without a shadow of doubt. I would probably throw you on the bus myself as it’s an opportunity that only a small amount of people get the honour of doing. Not only is there an enormous amount of pride that you feel when you put on the University blues but the experience and memories to gain are something to be cherished.
Sounds like three absolutely unforgettable experiences. Best of luck for the rest of the season and your upcoming tournaments. Thanks for your insights Oscar and keep up the good work!
Oscar with the 2017 WEUFT team at the Great Wall