Across the country each week, millions of footballers don their battered Nike Tiempos and various knee braces to take part in the fine British tradition of five-a-side football.
But while most games are fairly unremarkable affairs of one side usually dominating the other, there are some things that will always happen every time you turn out on the turf.
1 At 5pm, two hours before kick-off, you’ll have three players. By 7pm you’ll somehow have eight.
Everyone’s sent round a text to everyone in their phonebook who has the surname ‘Football’, and as luck will have it, none of your mates have prior plans on Tuesday night.
Now it’s awkward, because everyone will only get about 20 minutes pitch time…
2 Paying for the match itself before will always be a nightmare
So yeah, Ben’s paying by card, Tim’s paying by cash, Ed paid for two matches last week so Will’s paying for him, and Jonny has arranged a Western Union transfer to the PowerGoals centre.
Simple as that.
3 Only one player will bring a bottle of water
This guy is the real MVP of every five-a-side trip, but there’s nothing worse than being that guy with the water and having your team-mates smash it down their throats before you even get a sip.
4 There will always be one guy hanging around who will ask you for a game
This is a huge gamble – if you’ve only got four players, and there’s a random bloke standing there, you can’t say no.
But then you soon realise there’s a reason why he hasn’t got a team – it’s because he’s absolutely awful.
5 The phrase “Ah, do we HAVE to wear the bibs?” will be uttered
The ever-present question when you realise the other side is also wearing the same colour as you, the evening gets off to a tense start as a stand-off soon ensues about who should be wearing the bibs, which were last washed in 2004.
6 Having to tell your ringer the rules in less than five seconds before you kick-off
You might have met 20 minutes before the match, but it’ll only occur to you at the very last moment to make sure your ringer, who, incidentally, is always called Jamie, that it’s no head-height, not allowed in either box, and no slides.
7 That ringer then slide tackling at the first opportunity
“Yeah, Jamie, you can’t slide. We did say. You got that? Or do we need to go through the rules hastily again?”
8 No-one knows whether ‘head height’ is the height of the tallest, or shortest player
Is there anything more frustrating than playing against a tricky player who is about 4’6″, knowing that anything that basically goes above your knee height will be blown up by the ref?
9 “Let him out lads…”
Absolutely every British five-a-side player will know at least three minutes of every five-a-side match will be spent rammed into the corner of the pitch.
The referee won’t do anything (obviously), so it’s up a brave member of the crammed-in side to politely ask if their player is actually allowed to get the ball out of the corner.
Variations include the line, “Give him yards!”
10 The referee will always look disinterested, have his hood up and barely manage mumbled decisions
It’s not their fault, really. No-one wants to be a ref, and to some it’s a needed source of income.
But if you’re expecting any contentious decision, or the ref to put his head above the parapet for anything other than to ask the goalscorers name or bring the game to an end, you’re terribly mistaken.
Still, you could have Mike Dean…
11 The ball will inevitably get leathered over a fence into the nearest school/motorway/back garden
Unless you’re one of the lucky people that get to play on a pitch which has one of those netted roofs.
12 There will always be arguments about who should go in goal, and for how long
“Look lads, there’s only five of us. No-one wants to go in goal, but we have to take it in turns. Who fancies going in first?”
Cue heads pointed directly at the floor, followed by the most erratic timekeeping humanly possible.
One player will go in goal for five minutes, the following for seven, the next for 13, and all-in-all it’s one massive trainwreck of a game.
13 During the keeper changes, there is panicked exchange of gloves
The referee’s not wasting any time letting one goalkeeper come out of net for the next guy, so what follows is a ridiculously frenetic exchange of goalie gloves from one to the other.
The new keeper will manage to haul one on, leave the other in the goalmouth until the next stoppage in play, only to come out of goal about four minutes later to substitute for the next one.
14 Oh, and there will always be one player who flatly refuses to go in goal
The excuse list is utterly endless on this one, but it’s a safe bet it will come from one of the following five:
- They are carrying some sort of injury. They hadn’t mentioned it at all until the very moment they were required in goal, but they neglected to mention they had broken their radius earlier that week. Still, they can play outfield, of course they can.
- They claim they went in goal for ‘ages’ the previous week. Believe me, they didn’t – they went in for as long as everyone else.
- They ‘are really terrible in goal’. Yeah, we all are mate! That’s why none of volunteered to go in initially!
- They didn’t agree to play just to go in goal. This person is not a team player – don’t invite them back.
- They need a few minutes just to get warmed up, then they’ll do their stint. By which time, it’ll be minute 38 of 40, and they’ll do their two minute spell. Good job!
15 “If it hadn’t been for their keeper, we probably would have had nine…”
An absolute classic post-match phrase when you’ve squeezed out a 2-1 win, rather than remedying your own side’s minor flaws, some overblown praise is heaped on the opposition keeper.
Here’s a tip – maybe it’s your striker who needs a word? It can’t always be a worldie save by their goalkeeper, can it?
16 “To be fair, they only had one good player, the rest were pretty average…”
Yes, that’s why you’ve just been battered 6-1. That one good player. You just keep thinking that, but remember that excuse will only work once, until that one player doesn’t turn up the next time you play them and you still get trounced.
17 The post-match pint often depends on whether you’ve won or not
As much as we might not want to admit it, but it’s probably true. A win means a couple of beers in the local, but isn’t it curious how after a loss suddenly your team-mates have ‘just got to shoot off’, before offering muted apologies.