My New Year’s Resolution: Savor the Magic of Playing Five-a-side as Much as Possible | Soccer


I review my list of failed New Years Eve resolutions with detached fun. A few were futile attempts to improve myself (actually, was I going to learn the harmonica or grow my own beet?), Some reflected my concerns at the time (“I probably should touch it less, just in case where it would fall ”) and as I got older, others felt simple but impractical (eg in 2018,“ taking a shower before the school run ”). My New Years resolution for this year, however, will be fulfilled. Quite simply, it is about playing as much as possible with five.

Like most football fans, I have been playing football for as long as I can remember. I grew up with loads of kids my age in a set of starting houses, which, together with a local elementary school principal who thought homework harmed children, created the perfect conditions for all to play football. days. I commented on the games we played in the park, I commented on the kicks played in the hall of my friend’s house: “And the ball took a bad deviation from the Yellow Pages! LOOK AT HER FACE, JUST LOOK AT HER FACE! Growing up in West Wales, where for PE teachers rugby was king and football was not played in lessons, I took part in unofficial school matches. organized by the students. The enforced absence from football during the pandemic restored my enthusiasm to these teenage levels. In fact, at levels of enthusiasm not seen since Ian Rush played for Juventus.

Although I have never played 11-a-side Sunday League football, I played in a competitive five-a-side league for most of my 20s. This saw levels of hostility that I didn’t expect before signing up. A guy confronted me during a game and told me he would knock me out in the parking lot, even though I worked for a regional gas company and he represented the call center of a big insurance company – all of that pent-up assault and we weren’t even playing in one of the big utility company derbies that are so common on Tuesday nights at five. “It’s EDF vs. British Gas here at Cardiff Powerleague, AND IT’S LIVE.” As much as I loved playing, and my mind often comes back to the goals I scored in those games over 15 years ago, this very angry dude (who signed on with the brilliantly 1960s insult of ‘crazy to the long hair ‘) is a good example of what I try to avoid in the games I now play as a male in my forties.

Good ethics are essential. I already play in a match where the attitude is perfect, but having played so little in 2020 one match per week does not seem enough to me anymore. If I am asked to make up the numbers for someone else, finding out if shin guards are generally worn is a good indicator of what the game will look like. From friends I have played with since school primary will confirm that I’ve never thrown myself into tackles like Bryan Robson in a World Cup group game, but at 41 I don’t want to get my shin and fib broken by a head of meat from Kent who works in recruiting and doesn’t love his wife anymore. As an avowed luxury player (trans: genetically incapable of getting stuck, a lot of what I try doesn’t happen, the talent I have is largely unrecognized in England) I would ideally like to play with nine other people who are laughing and a little worse than me, so I can score a lot of goals and fool myself on the way home that I could have played at a higher level.

Bryan Robson (right) in action for England against Morocco at the 1986 World Cup. Photograph: AFP / Getty Images

It’s the magic of playing football. I’ve interviewed professional footballers who haven’t kicked a ball since they retired, and yet when I kick the ball I might be 11 again. Everyone I play with is the same. The only difference is that I now wear the boots that my mom wouldn’t have bought me in 1991 because they were too expensive, and I have come to accept that in terms of age I have gone from from “pro senior” to “former locker room statesman” to “can his squeaky limbs face one more campaign” to “club legend devastated by contract termination” before finally settling in in the “young manager has new ideas” phase of my life.

Fortunately, I usually play against people who are closer to Eddie Howe than to Erling Haaland. Five-a-side football is the most accessible format of the world’s most popular sport, and because football is so ubiquitous, most players have some level of skill. I love to ride a bike, but when I go to Tesco by bike to buy an onion and AAA batteries I don’t kid myself, what I do is the same as Geraint Thomas gritting his teeth on the ride. ‘Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France. But even though I know that’s not true, a goal scored with your weakest foot, a smart kick off from a teammate, dribbling past an imbalanced full-back will make me think, “Yes. I’m Ferenc Puskas and I somehow got through the net. And then I’ll trip over my own feet or the ball will bounce off my shin and I’ll actually concede it: “I think the net was probably right about it. let me drift into the Irish Sea. “

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I’ve watched too many American football documentaries where the coach tells his young players that if they fail to make the high school playoffs, this will be the last game they make. There is no such thing as a true NFL equivalent to five. -next to. Fortunately, the kind of football that I love can be played until old age. If you ask me, I will play. Don’t expect me to go back.

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