FOOTBALL is often referred to as the beautiful game not purely because of the silky skills of it’s prize participants, but also because it’s renowned for bringing people together from all walks of life.
Nearly half-a-century ago a gang of hardcore fans of the ‘pigskin sport’ became largely responsible for Abergavenny’s blossoming and burgeoning relationship with its German twin - Ostringen. Here’s how.
Way back in the swinging sixties, as part of the European Friendship Plan, our fair county of Monmouthsire was twinned with the German city of Bruchsal, which incidentally is renowned for being Europe’s largest asparagus producer.
The Town Mayors of Britain and Burgermeisters of Germany were also told to ‘twin-up’ in a hurry, which led to the 1968 twining of Abergavenny and Ostringen - one of the towns located within the Bruchsal area.
Over the next two years a series of councillor visits and number of school interchanges involving small numbers took place, but the trips didn’t exactly set the two towns on fire and forge a cast iron friendship.
Things weren’t going to plan or working out how the two towns hoped. The situation had become dire, leading Ostringen’s Burgermeister Hermann Kimmling to do what most people do when things go belly up, he wrote to the Abergavenny Chronicle.
His letter, which appeared on the front page of a 1970 edition of the newspaper, expressed deep distress with the lack of progress in the twinning relationship.
He ended the letter by pleading with our readers to send their ideas directly to him about how to energize the exchanges and make the twining project a surefire success.
That particular postbag caught the wandering eye of former Abergavenny Thursdays player and football coach Terry Hodgins who had hung up his boots and was scouting around for a new challenge to get his teeth stuck into.
Putting his thinking cap on, Terry pondered, ‘What do both Germany and Britain have in common?’ The answer hit him like a thunderbolt - ‘Their mutual love of football!’
Terry, who is now a sharp and youthful looking 87-year-old explained to the Chronicle, “It occurred to me that the only way to gee things up was with a sport that was dearly loved in both countries. So I dug out my decrepit typewriter and knocked off a short note and posted it to the Burgermeister saying that I believed that a programme of youth soccer would be the best way forward.”
Within a week Terry recieved a letter addressed to Herr Hodgins from the Ostringen Burgermeister. Only trouble was, it was written in German.
Terry explained, “I had the letter translated by a German lady living in Monmouth Road who charged me the sum of one pound for her troubles.”
It was well worth it. The letter revealed that Herr Kimmling was wildly enthusiastic about Terry’s idea and that tiny spark ignited a mighty bonfire.
Terry teamed up with Les Townsend of Abergavenny Park Rangers FC (U16) and Alf Barker of Llwynu Utd (U14), who supplied the fundraising and admin know-how, to partner his own coaching experience. The trio were joined by fist class ref Chris Woodhouse, and between them the gang had all the experience and skills needed to make the Abergavenny Select/Ostringen soccer exchanges a historic success.
The very first match was played in Ostringen in the Spring of 1971 for the ‘Herman Kimmling Cup’ and the ‘Abergavenny ‘Cup’, and from then on in the matches got bigger and better. Until one fateful day in 1975 a group of Aber lads took on the boys of Bayern Munich.
But that’s a tale to be told another day, as is the saga of 1981 which saw Abergavenny United conquer Europe in an international football tournament held in Holland. Yes you read it right. So watch this space!
In the meantime take a butchers at the above pic, it was taken in Bailey Park in the early 1970s and it’s of the Abergavenny Select team who were an amalgamation of players from Park Rangers and Llwynu Utd, that formed the basis of the Twin town football exchanges for the first ten years.
Terry recalled, “The photo was taken at Bailey Park prior to a Twin Town fundraising event between Abergavenny Select and Abergavenny All Stars.
“The gentleman pictured third from the left is Brian Evans, who is widely regarded as the most talented player ever in the history of the Abergavenny Thursdays.
“We played together for three years before he was transferred to Swansea Town for what was then a hefty sum.
“He gladly attended our fundraiser and made a donation towards what was already a successful event. Brian had a marvelous career with Swansea which was tragically cut short by a mystery illness which resulted in his passing when still in his 30s.”
Pictured from left to right in the front row are J.Hill, G.Stockham, G.Powell, K. Willard, and C.Davies.
In the back row are G.Edwards, R.Warren, P.Butterfield, L.Stockham, P.Carpanini, and K.Prosser.
Committee left to right are R. WMS, T.Hodgins, Brian Evans (VIP), L.Townsend, D. O’connel, and B. Powell.
The referee for the match was Chris Woodhouse.
If you were involved with the twin town football exchanges or the international tournament in Holland and are interested in attending a reunion evening later this year. Then contact Terry Hodgins on 01873 852896 as soon as possible.