Thousands of rival players are today (Tues) taking part in a bizarre two day football match that sees opponents compete to move a ball to the opposite ends of a town. The historic Royal Shrovetide Football Match kicked off in Ashbourne, Derbys., at 2pm and will finish tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. The ancient tradition is said to date back to medieval times and Shrovetide ball games have been played since at least the 12th century from the reign of Henry II. If the goal is scored before 6pm, a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre, otherwise play ends for the day. While it is legal to kick, carry or throw the ball, it generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant rugby scrum, made up of hundreds of people. This year's match - contested by around 5,000 people - was started by Paul Cook, a National Farming Union agent who asked organisers to cancel the game in 2001 due to a national outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.