Saturday, April 20, 2024

Kickabout Sheffield with Mat Hook

On the surface, Kickabout Sheffield may seem like any other amateur football league but beneath the surface, for founder Mat Hook, it is so much more.

Behind the games ran by the FA affiliated league, is the story of how Sheffield’s football community reinvigorated one man’s life. In 2014, Mat Hook’s rise to stardom was cut short when he stepped away from being frontman of Sheffield band Kartica for an accumulation of reasons.

At the time the group’s music was resonating with a rapidly growing fanbase, their tracks featuring regularly at both Sheffield United & Wednesday football grounds and even episodes of Hollyoaks. They shared stages with the likes of The Beautiful South, Catfish & The Bottlemen, The Twang and Little Man Tate’s Jon Windle… They also received international press as far afield as South America while enjoying endorsements from Tom Clarke of The Enemy, ex-Manchester United footballer turned pundit, Gary Neville, and even cult US Hip Hop star, Casanova Rud.

As Hook signed CDs in nightclubs for enthusiastic fans and sang at iconic venues such as The Cavern in Liverpool and The 100 Club in London, misfortune was starting to happen all around as the pursuit of his dream appeared seemingly to ebb away. Within the span of 18 months, Mat lost his 9-5 office job, split with the mother of his one-year-old child, saw his father develop life-altering cancer (that he later died of), left Kartica amid growing tensions and witnessed another family member also diagnosed with the aforementioned disease, thankfully surviving.

The once nationwide touring musician, who had shared the stage with members of The Jam, performed in front of KT Tunstall and rubbed shoulders with ex-England footballers, found himself at the precipice of spiralling, when forming a seven-a-side football team provided a light.

“This developed into a real shot in the dark at starting my own league. The decision to do so was done in one day. I registered a website that morning, spoke to the local football asociation that afternoon and soon went out on the street, alone, somewhat comically, recruiting teams. It was a real one-man-mission. Roughly 3 months later, I had six teams of amateur footballers heading down to play every Wednesday night.”

Beginning with a completely grassroots attitude, Hook both played and supervised with the help of one referee. The difference between this league and the others? Aside from an inspired idea to film every match and supply highlights, Hook was simply on a mission to rediscover his self-esteem and coupled with a feeling that he had nothing to lose, threw himself into taking on and dealing with every last detail within the leagues. 

Fast forward three years to the present day and Kickabout Sheffield has 28 men’s teams on its showpiece Wednesday night, with a further ten in a smaller Summer Only league. These include some of the best amateur, semi-pro, (and even a few professional) footballers, in the city. Hook also recently launched a new women’s six-a-side division spawned from weekly casual sessions and now further bolsters Sheffield’s football community. 

The success of the league has transformed Hook’s life and has given him the inspiration to get back into writing and performing music. Creatively, he is coming out from the shadow of Kartica’s legacy and quickly connecting with audiences again, having already had viral videos online, being recently acknowledged by Daryl Hall and shared a bill at Askern Festival with The Coral, Feeder and The Lightning Seeds.

As well as re-releasing a favourite Kartica song in ‘Dare to Dream’, Mat Hook’s first solo single ‘Runaway Road (Live Acoustic at Son of the City Studio)’ is also available – A stripped back acoustic track, the single chronicles the emotional journey that has brought  Hook to the more relaxed and positive place he thankfully finds himself in today.

For more about Mat Hook click here, and for more about Kickabout Sheffield click here.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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