“I’d make for a piece of waste ground opposite our house, where the boys from the neighbourhood gathered for a kick-about. Coats would be piled for posts and the game would get under way. In fine weather, it would be as many as twenty a side. In bad weather, a hardened dozen or so made six a side. We didn’t need a referee. We accepted the rules of the game and stuck by them. Those games prepared us for life.”
Aidan was the commentator. He was brilliant at it. We had to tell him our names before the match. We were playing across the road. Our pitch was gone. The gates on each side were the goals. There were eight of us, just right, four a side. Whoever had the ball when a car was coming got a throw-in when the car had gone. If you decided to risk it but the driver blasted the horn before you took your shot the goal was disallowed, if it was a goal. You couldn’t use the kerb for shielding the ball. Anything higher than the top of the pillar was over the bar.
(from Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha)
“For me, football started when, at the age of ten, I sent off six Typhoo Tea box tops and received a poster of the 1966 West Ham team. It featured, of course, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. I have been a victim ever since. I used to kick a ball endlessly against the back gate of our house, with only a dustbin to beat. I was bloody brilliant.”
“I’ve always been an Arsenal fan, but I avoided actually playing football whenever possible. My special tactic was to stand at the edge and boot the ball as far off the field as possible if it ever came near me. I’d then walk very slowly to retrieve it while everyone yelled at me to hurry up. Best of all was tucking the ball under my arm and sauntering back while everyone yelled, ‘Kick it you w*nker.’
The best goalposts were purely abstract, varying in height and width depending on which side you were on. These led to violent disputes and opposing teams keeping completely different scores. Often both teams left the field convinced of a well won victory. In hindsight this ‘everybody wins’ theory seems new agey and satisfying – apart from the fights, obviously.
I remember that up until about age eight, you were allowed to keep scoring by repeatedly kicking the ball against a wall or fence. Players could knock in seven or eight goals in seconds. Some boys resisted the concept of a kick off after a goal until they were at least ten.
Did adults ever stop me playing? I bloody wish. I’d be sitting there quietly reading a book or playing on my Atari and someone would go into a rant and tell me to get some air and be more like the other boys. Suddenly you’d be freezing your arse off on some strip of tarmac covered with broken glass and used Durex while some yob in a Liverpool shirt gave you a Chinese burn because you’d deliberately booted the only ball onto the roof of the burned out youth centre.”
“I used to play in the street in Lambeth – in Heyford Avenue. There were never any cars so we used to play along the road with crates as goals. The rule was that if anyone hit a pass astray and it hit the kerb their punishment was that they had to sit on the wall for a minute. Now kids don’t play on the streets anymore. It’s not safe. I’m terrible with my son, I won’t let him out. And he’s 19 now. Only kidding, he’s 11.”
“I remember when I was living in Garston, we used a climbing ladder as a goal. We also went through a phase where we used a tennis ball instead of a football.”
“If I was one of H.G.Wells’s extra-terrestrials, regarding this planet with envious eyes, I would not look to the geopolitical realm to see what made humanity tick. I’d look to the corners of school playgrounds, the alleyways, the dirty beaches, all those endlessly made-up spaces that everyone pretends are grass and goalposts.
It is there I would focus my predatory vision. From knowledge gleaned from shirts and jumpers and tin cans I would devise my strategy. From people who cannot even recall what they used as goalposts, but want to, so wish they could remember, I would refine my truths about the human race and then, slowly and surely, I would draw up my plans against the Earth.”
In 2000, Marti Guixe designed an instant football – a roll of adhesive tape which you scrunch up to make a ball whenever you need one. You can still buy it over the internet.