We live in a world filled with football stars, the real football that is, the one played with the feet! Children are playing the most popular sport anywhere on every patch of grass, quiet street corner, wasteland or schoolyard in almost every corner of the planet.
I’m a huge supporter of the game, almost fanatical in supporting my home team of Blackpool, watching them play when possible. Taking the opportunity to also watch the more famous teams like Liverpool or Manchester United and even when travelling I make time to watch matches. Internationals are of course especially attractive, and watching an El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid is the stuff of dreams.
“The boys all become Messi”
However, just watching a group of children play in a field or on a sandy, beach using jackets or backpacks for goalposts is often an even more enjoyable experience. Friends choose friends for on their team, even if they’re not the most talented players. Big brothers kick misshapen balls around with younger siblings, maybe even allowing their little sisters to join in, small backyards becoming pitches. They sometimes may even allow them to win but usually there is a competitive edge. The tackling can often be rough, tough and there are rarely any prisoners taken.
They play for the sheer enjoyment for the game, they’re not being paid huge wages, but they dream of emulating their heroes. The boys all become Messi, Ronaldo or Beckham, girls pretend they are Hamm or Wambach, the backstreet becomes the Bernabéu, the Camp Nou or Wembley. It’s not a knock about between a group of children but they are playing in the World Cup finals, the Copa del Rey or maybe the African Cup of Nations.
The size of the teams is immaterial; one on one or eleven a side, football is adaptable to allow almost any number of players a game. Team size isn’t important, provided there is equality in ability the match will remain competitive.
“the glory will live long”
Every game is of utmost importance, the winners will hold the bragging rights, their heads held high, the losers will hang their heads in shame. This will last until the next school break, the next get together, the next chance to score a goal or make a goal saving tackle, a chance for glory, to receive the plaudits and praise of their friends. The winning goal scorer becomes an instant hero, the act taking maybe less than a second, but the glory will live long after the game is over.
Football became known as the beautiful game due to the way teams such as Brazil or the modern Spanish players stroke the ball around with consummate ease. Their speed of movement, passages of crisp, precise passing, moments of sublime skill and technique with the back of the net eventually bulging as the ball fires into it with power and precision, like a cannonball shot from an artillery gun.
t’s the grubby children playing in the streets that really make it beautiful, it’s accessibility to all, young or old, rich or poor, boy or girl. Anybody can play, they ony need a little space, a ball, improvised goals and a love of the beautiful game.
It is easy to relate to these kids, because I was once one of them, in many ways maybe I still am.