From an outsider’s perspective, it only ever looked like a group of mates having a casual kick about. There was no ref, no kits and let’s face it, the goals were most likely made of coats and bags. Yes, I’m of course talking about the old football days as a kid in the park.
But that’s not to say things weren’t serious, or that there weren’t strict rules to follow. Here are the 10 commandments of park football:
I. Thou shalt not set proper boundaries to the pitch.
Should the ball get miss kicked and go too far (and it always does), there are no throw ins. Basically, the ball goes to whoever can be arsed to run to get it back. Simple but fair.
II. Thou shalt stop playing when the ball’s owner gets tired or pissed off
Whoever said that knowledge was power clearly never owned a football.
III. Thou shalt put the fat kid in goal
Football is harsh. School and kids are harsher, so anyone who’s every played knows that one’s inevitable.
IV. Thou shalt end the game using the ‘next goal wins’ rule (alternative to II)
That’s right, technically you can win a game by scoring 3 goals to your opponents’ 14.
V. Thou shalt award penalties only once everyone stops playing
Penalties are a grey area in the park. Not helped by the lack of actual penalty box, match officials and objectivity from all involved, the only way a penalty can be awarded is in the unlikely event every player agrees to it.
VI. Thou shalt try unnecessary skills if girls are watching on the side
Even though deep down you know they’re not watching the game, you definitely still count it as playing in front of a crowd.
VII. Thou shalt have an imaginary crossbar as tall as the goalkeeper
Importantly, this rule still stands in the event of a disproportionate height difference between the 2 goalies. It’s also impossible to score a goal off the crossbar, as those will systematically be regarded as off target (even if a keeper midget keeper doesn’t bother jumping for it).
VIII. Thou shalt play rush keeper if not enough people
This often goes hand in hand with arguments about how far from goal the keeper can use his hands. It also often involved the use of ridiculously small goals, consequently ruling out the chance of scoring Gerrard-like, long range efforts.
IV. Thou shalt use the ‘goal or penalty’ rule
In the event of both teams disagreeing whether the ball is indeed in the back of the fictional net.
X. Thou shalt let the ball owner decides who plays
As many will know, a great way out when a randomer approaches you asking to join the play.