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  1. Above Head Height

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    We are delighted to have James Brown write us a guest blog this month, featuring an extract from his excellent book ‘Above Head Height’. The book is about five-a-side football, of course, but it’s more about the social bond that playing football brings which is captured brilliantly throughout the book. The poignant extract below is from the opening chapter.


    We Cremated James Yesterday

    For the last few decades James has organised our regular Wednesday night and Sunday morning football games. Amateur football is a strange brotherhood – whether, as in our case, it’s midweek indoor five‐a‐side or outdoor Sunday nine‐a‐side. Artificial surfaces, artificial dreams. Grown men still imagining they’re playing for their childhood teams.

    I’ve rarely seen the men alongside me at the crematorium in non‐football clothes before, never mind funereal black. We normally wear a mixed bag of old club shirts (Derby County, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Charlton) and thinning, well‐washed T‐shirts that are unfaithful to their original colours.

    I don’t know many of the men’s surnames. Instead, they’re known by a series of poor tags that aren’t even nicknames – Sunderland Graham, Beardy Dave, Tall Ben, Little Ben. I’ve only been to the houses of two of them and I don’t know what half of them do for a living or what their wives are called. I know some of their children – but only because we’ve been playing long enough for nippers who occasionally watched from the sidelines ten years ago to turn into young men who play regularly and bring some youth and ability to an ageing team. I occasionally come across the players in real life and what surprises me is that they’re wearing long trousers, not shorts.

    The thing that binds everyone who plays five‐a‐side is the same thing that made us, as kids kick a ball in the playground at school, in the streets as it got dark and in the park at weekends. It’s the overwhelming desire to stay true to that feeling you get when you score or tackle or pass and it prompts a round of applause and you are, just for a moment, Allan Clarke or Thierry Henry or whoever your childhood hero was. It’s not televised, so there’s only word‐of‐mouth proof, but even crap amateur players can score world‐class goals.

    Five‐a‐side runs as an unusual parallel to the rest of our lives. Come rain, shine, birth, divorce and even death, we show up and play.

    When news came that James had died, I tried to explain our connec‐ tion to my girlfriend, who had met him maybe twice in a decade, a passer‐by on the street. He wasn’t a close friend but he was a good friend. A nice, genuine guy. I’d attended his birthday dinner at his favourite curry house in the summer. When I heard I just sat in a state of shock and then went out to walk in the park where I used to bump into him weekly, riding his bike round the ponds.

    I’d first met him thirty years earlier on a musician friend’s doorstep; I’d attended his birthday dinner in the summer. How do you approximate the familiarity that comes from seeing someone twice a week at football for seventeen years?

    These regular fixtures have lasted much longer than all my jobs and almost twice as long as my longest relationships. Despite occasional are‐ups on the pitch, they’ve remained more good‐natured, more consistent and less painful than following the teams we support.

    They offer windows into the personalities of the people you share the pitch with. Every regular five‐a‐side player with an eye for the game can describe in clear detail the playing styles of his or her own teammates. We’ve enjoyed and endured them for what seems like for ever: the sharp shooter; the late tackler; the on‐pitch organiser who doesn’t do what he asks others to; the one who produces almost accidental bril‐ liance from nowhere; the one who shows up and plays in what looks like your grandma’s slippers; the ones who can’t run any more because their chests or their legs are letting them down.

    There’s more: the angry player who’s calm off the pitch; the lazy, selfish player who won’t go in goal; the person who runs round and round in circles, not hearing the pleas for passes from everyone around him; the grown man who will kick a fourteen‐year‐old; the player who thinks he’s still as good as he was ten years ago; the generous, hard‐working, selfless player; and the player who’s a long way from a natural but turns up and does his best.

    This last description suited James Kyllo. He was ungainly – not, you suspect, someone who played as a kid – but there were few things better than seeing James edge in from the far wing at a corner and celebrate an unexpected goal with almost childlike glee. A man who never expects to score looks great when he does, running away to his own half while pumping his sts in a mixture of happiness, sense of achievement and disbelief. That was our friend James.

    Importantly, James was the man who booked the pitches, collected the money and, in his own statistically fascinated way, took charge of a long‐running series of annual tables, awarding individual players points for victories or losses. This tended to create more competitive tension than is necessary in a friendly game – but it felt fantastic the year I came top.

    James Kyllo was a tall, large, quiet man, well read and endlessly enthusiastic about music. He rode a bicycle in massive army shorts, sandals and a eece. The newer Sunday footballers who joined us over the years would never have guessed that he had been a punk rocker and was one of the invisible mainstays of Creation Records – a pillar around which the excess and success of Oasis and Primal Scream thrived. But then Creation founder Alan McGee couldn’t believe James was a long‐standing Sunday footballer when I rang to tell him of James’s unexpected death and to ask him to pass on the news to his record label colleagues.

    It was only with James’s passing that I realized what a strange,open‐ended family exists on these small AstroTurf and wood‐panelled pitches. It’s the same the country over.

    The Sunday after he died, we gathered around the centre circle and stood for what seemed like ve minutes’ silence. No one arranged it. Just amateur footballers honouring one of our own.



  2. Christmas Cheer for Chigoli – Our Brixton Tournament is back!

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    When it comes to spreading Christmas cheer we try to do our bit here at For us, this time of year is all about mulled wine, mince pies and hosting our Charity Christmas Tournament. To avoid adding to the disappointment that has been 2016, we’re back in action with a tournament taking place at Brixton Ferndale Centre on Sunday 18th December. Details on how to enter the tournament can be found at the end of this article.

    As always with our Christmas Tournament, all proceeds raised will be going to charity. This year we have decided to partner with Chigoli, an organisation using football to offer children a pathway into education in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries. We spoke to co-founder George Maguire to see exactly how they are using the beautiful game to make a huge difference to young people’s lives.

    ‘Chigoli Academy stands on three pillars – Advanced Football Coaching, Education and Character Development.

    Chigoli means ‘goal’ in the main traditional language in Malawi, Chichewa. Malawi is the poorest country in the world per capita where the majority of the population are trapped in cycles of poverty and where less than 12% of children finish secondary school. 10% of the population live with HIV. There is a chronic lack of decent youth football development structures across the country and no recognisable youth leagues below U15 or at U17.

    Chigoli identifies talented young boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14 from across Malawi and works with them in a holistic, player centered Academy environment through which role models for future generations shall be created. 95% of Chigoli Academy players come from backgrounds of poverty with many of their families living well below the poverty line. 

    Chigoli focuses on creating actual development for those whose talent deserves opportunity. In practice this requires significant investment into players lives, in order for them to have the ability to fulfil their potential to enter careers in professional football or continued education on athlete scholarships.

    In addition to the Academy, Chigoli operates a vibrant community programme supporting disadvantaged groups in Malawi through football tournaments including street children, the blind, refugees and both girls and boys. Plans are currently being implemented to create a network satellite feeder teams across the Central Region of Malawi to bring more children under the Chigoli umbrella at grass roots level and also increase Chigoli’s scouting reach.

    The Chigoli Community Programme engages with over 2,500 children in Malawi each year and for those who display academic or footballing potential offers life changing pathways to previously unattainable opportunities.

    Features of Chigoli Academy:

    – Malawi’s most advanced and innovative youth coaching programme

    – Private school scholarships until the end of secondary school for players

    – Proven character development programme

    – Nutritional and medical support

     Ways to support:

    1. Through donating on our website – (Paypal Donate)
    2. Supporting our crowd funding drive –
    3. Joining our mailing list or following/liking on social media – @chigolimw

    George Maguire


    Our Brixton Tournament will be supporting this fantastic cause when it takes place on Sunday 18th December at Brixton Ferndale Centre.  Full details on the venue can be seen here. The day will be kicking off from 13.00, running through group and knock-out stages to finish at about 17.00. Team entry will cost £60, with entertainment taking place throughout the afternoon, along with a raffle. All teams will get a minimum of 4 games.

    In order to register please complete the online form found at this link.

    If you’d like any more details about the day, or are able to offer us any donations of raffle prizes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via

    See you all in Brixton on December 18th!

  3. Thursday night is football night – 20 years of Old Robsonians

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    Words by Nick Frith

    To borrow an old phrase, there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. However, in the 5-a-side world there is one addition needed for this phrase to really ring true; Old Robsonians. The team originally formed all the way back in 1996, long before many of their opponents were ever paying taxes, and with their level of dedication it appears that death is the only thing that could stop them from turning out on a Thursday night.

    Old Robsonians - Thursday Championship

    OR’s celebrate recent success

    It was taxes that brought the team together in the first place, when they were all working at accountancy firm Robson Rhodes in 1996. When Jez Vaughan and Martin Eales formed the team to play in the Old Spitalfields Market every Thursday, little did they know what they had started. By 1999 most of the team had moved to new jobs, so team name Old Robsonians was adopted. Strong ties remained with Robson Rhodes, who they played in regular grudge matches, with players graduating to the Old Robsonians side, 4 of whom make up today’s side. The firm ceased to exist in 2007, outlasted by this plucky band of footballers.

    The next big moment in Old Robsonians history was in 2002, when they made a seminal move down to Battersea Newton Prep, to join the league they play in until this day. The spacious pitches were obviously suited to the team, who managed to win the league 8 or 9 times in the following 7 years, all under the watchful eye of our head referee Leno. Their last title, back in their 15th season together, even attracted national media coverage in the Independent.  When asked about the team, Leno is full of praise ‘Fantastic team, fantastic players.’ He said. ‘I have known them for 15 years and it’s always a pleasure to referee their games. They are truly a sporting team who love their football. Win or lose, they will give you a competitive game every time.’

    Never shy of the limelight, they have also represented on the international stage. After winning a public vote, they had the opportunity to take on a German 5-a-side team in attempt to make amends after England’s loss to Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Managed by Peter Shilton, they got off to a bad start after going 3-0 down early on, and eventually slipped to an 8-4 defeat.

    Chief Organiser/Director of Football Martin Eales has been keeping the team in line, and turning up, every week for the last 20 years. According to his stats the team has just finished its 76th season, having played for a total of 779 weeks. It’s a quite incredible achievement, with the team outlasting 10 England managers, 5 prime ministers and 100s of opposition teams.

    How do you celebrate a 20 year anniversary? With a tour to America, of course. Original founder, Jez, now lives in Cincinnati, and he invited them across the pond to show the Yanks how to play soccer.

    Old Robsonians - USA

    OR’s enjoying success on their recent tour to the US

    We caught up with Martin after the tour to see how they go on, and to find out just how a team stays together for 20 years…

    –          How was the tour?

    • We had a great time and it was all that we could have hoped for. Jez, our ex-player and host, noting our age and ‘mixed’ level of fitness these days had carefully set up 2 matches for us on the Saturday and 1 on the Sunday and we were delighted to win them all despite the heat and humidity playing outdoors on the first day.  It was a really special way to celebrate the anniversary, particularly as 3 of the 7 who were playing are rarely seen on a weekly basis these days for one reason or another. Of course after no more than 2 beers afterwards we were talking about making it an annual event.


    –          What has ORs finest moment been?

    • There are a few I can think of. The first dates back to our early years at Spitalfields and then the Bishopsgate Goodsyard where there was a team called SBT that we must have played against twice a season for 3 or 4 years. They wore a Juventus kit and were habitual League champions long before we ever won anything.  When we finally won a match against those guys it felt like the kind of event you’d want to tell your grandchildren about!  Back in the early-mid 00’s we organised an annual 5-a-side tournament in Wandsworth one Saturday every September (in fact our current long standing Battersea opponent’s Grey C Milan played in it a couple of times) and one of those coincided with what was then our 10th anniversary and we managed to win it before going off for a night out in Brighton.
    • Getting the chance to play as England v Germany back in 2010 as part of a Holiday Inn promotion was an amazing experience. They had cameras on us all day, Peter Shilton as our coach, all our England kit hung up in the dressing room for us – it was just a shame we couldn’t beat them.
    • Finally, I should mention one bang up to date from the tour last month which was one of our teammates Kiaran hiring a car and driving 10 hours through the night from Washington to Cincinnati after his plane got cancelled late on the Friday night and just missing the 10am Saturday kick off for the first match by 5 minutes!  He then went on to score the only goal in the last minute of the second match.

    –          And the funniest?

    • We still fondly remember the time at Battersea that we managed to bring on a sub mid-game and as he ran on he cleared a goal bound shot before helping to engineer a goal for us at the other end. The ref didn’t seem to notice and the opposition were incensed!  The following week the league issued an edict stating that substitutions could ONLY take place when the ball was dead….

    –          What has changed in 5-a-side over the last 20 years?

    • One of my team mates observed recently that the game seems to have become much more specialised: when we started most teams were probably from 11-a-side weekend teams like us who were just looking for something extra to do during the week.  Nowadays there are many more 5-a-side venues and leagues and there will be plenty of guys who never play 11-a-side.  On a more practical level I don’t miss the early days before widespread email where a team had to be assembled via a round of phone calls each week!  The league organisers also used to photocopy and post out a league table to each captain once a week as well before the advent of decent websites.
    • This might be a bit ‘grumpy old man’ but I noted recently that we now pay £5 (or more!) per pint in the pub afterwards whereas back in 1996 £5 was your entire contribution to the weekly kitty that seemed to buy endless pints and crisps….

    –          What is it that keeps you playing 5-a-side week after week?

    • Most of the team observe that I have to keep the Club running as no one else would give me a game, but I just love playing. All we can ask is that we remain competitive and win a few here and there, but even more than that I think we all subscribe to the concept of our ‘Club’ being something special simply because we have racked up so many weeks/months/years – when in reality I know it is just a few mates playing in a 6-a-side league.  The camaraderie and friendship we have built up over so many years not only through football but from other nights out, parties, stag dos, weddings – and now plenty of 40th birthdays – will be hard to replace.  Still, I’m only 44 and there are some prime examples even in our league which make me hope I won’t need to hang up my boots just yet.

    Follow the team on twitter for a taste of Thursday night football – @oldrobsonians

  4. Euro 2016 – A team-by-team guide

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    Words by Nick Frith

    Euro 2016 is finally here. As always, the backstories have been written, replica shirts purchased and days off work booked (who’s idea was it for England vs Wales to be a 2pm kick off on a Thursday?!). The excitement is reaching its peak with kick off of the opening game just a few hours away.

    This year’s finals have been expanded to 24 teams, leading to the bizarre situation that 3rd place in your group will probably get you into the next round, as well as places in the tournament for a few lesser known teams. Great for the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland, but for the casual fan things become a little trickier. Does anyone really know who plays in goal for Iceland, and if the Slovakian’s are any good?

    Check out our quickfire preview of each team below, and make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about over the next few weeks!

    Group A


    Chances – None, just happy to be here.

    Entertainment – Only scored 10 goals in qualifying, so don’t expect fireworks.

    Manager – Gianna De Biasi is the man who guided Albania to their first major tournament. Kudos.

    Support – Won’t be many of them, but those who make the trip will make themselves heard!

    Best 5 – Etrit Berisha, Lorik Cana, Taulant Xhaka, Ledian Memushaj, Sokol Çikalleshi


    Chances – Possible winners. Home support and an exciting squad could see them go all the way, as long as they avoid the usual French implosion.

    Entertainment – Their midfield is oozing with class, and going forward they could be exceptional. We’ve seen what the likes of Payet and Martial can do in the Premiership this season, and they might not even get in the team.

    Manager – He won it all as a player, and as a manager Didier Deschamps hasn’t taken long to reach international level. Not without controversy, particularly with the racism row around the squad he’s picked for the tournament.

    Support – France has had a pretty traumatic last 12 months, but here is a chance for them to unite as a country. Keep an eye out for cockerels sneaking into stadiums.

    Best 5 – Hugo Lloris, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud


    Chances – Should get through their group if they do well against France in the first game of the tournament.

    Entertainment – Low. A defensive minded team who only conceded 2 in qualifying. Lack of attacking spark.

    Manager – Another manager who took a foray into politics, Anghel Iordănescu is in his second spell as Romania manager.

    Support – Have a pretty bad reputation, with racism accusations and partial stadium closures in recent years.

    Best 5 – Ciprian Tătărușanu, Vlad Chiricheș, Răzvan Raț, Alexandru Chipciu, Florin Andone


    Chances – This is a very good Switzerland team, and should harbor hopes of a quarter final.

    Entertainment – Potential to play some good stuff, coming from Xherdan Shaqiri in particular.

    Manager – Vladimir Petković trumps Roy Hodgson, speaking 7 languages. Known as ‘The Doctor’, despite having no medical experience.

    Support – A country where winter sports dominate, don’t expect any flares in the Swiss end.

    Best 5 – Yann Sommer, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Haris Seferović

    Group B


    Chances – We still believe, right?

    Entertainment – Lack of wide players in the squad, but still plenty of excitement going forward from Alli, Vardy and Kane. Let’s just hope Rooney can keep up.

    Manager – Roy Hodgson can speak 5 languages, has 50 years managerial experience and has the second highest win rate of any England manager, ever. Yet he is probably best known on social media for looking like an owl.

    Support – Calais will be busy. 100,000s of England fans will be making the journey, many without tickets. Let’s hope for plastic chairs to be sat in, not thrown, and for fountains in town squares, not water cannons.

    Best 5 – Joe Hart, Chris Smalling, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane


    Chances – Injury to star man Alan Dzagoev is a cruel blow, but if the Russians recover they should make the last 16 minimum.

    Entertainment – Fast wingers and strikers in form, their opening game vs England’s shaky back four could be fun.

    Manager – Leonid Slutsky replaced Fabio Capello last summer and has done very well in his first 12 months. Had to retire from playing in 1989 after falling out of a tree rescuing his neighbour’s cat.

    Support – England vs Russia has been cited as a potential problem game by French police, so hopefully not too much vodka will be drunk.

    Best 5 – Igor Akinfeev, Sergei Ignashevich, Alexander Samedov, Roman Shirokov, Artyom Dzyuba


    Chances – Bit of a 1 man team, but if Marek Hamsik fires then they could do well.

    Entertainment – See above. Hamsik or nothing.

    Manager – Ján Kozák has a son of the same name who also plays football. Very confusing.

    Support – Travelling to their first ever Euros, they are sure to want to make themselves heard.

    Best 5 – Matúš Kozáčik, Martin Škrtel, Ján Ďurica, Miroslav Stoch, Marek Hamšík


    Chances – Will celebrate like they’ve won the whole tournament if they topple England in Lens and get out of the group.

    Entertainment – There is no denying that Gareth Bale has the x-factor. The do lack a centre-forward though.

    Manager – Chris Coleman had to retire from playing after a car crash, and has been fantastic in leading Wales to their first major tournament since 1958.

    Support – The ball may not be egg shaped, but still expect lots of noise from the Welsh if they win any games.

    Best 5 – Wayne Hennessey, Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale

    Group C


    Chances – They’re world champions for a reason. Fantastic quality, although perhaps lacking a little bit of depth.

    Entertainment – Not the most flash, but a quick counter attacking game can prove good to watch.

    Manager – Hard to top winning your country the Jules Rimet Trophy as Joachim Löw did in Brazil 2 years ago. Could write himself into German legend status if they win back-to-back tournaments.

    Support – Some of the best in the world. If they can produce support like Borussia Dortmund fans have in Europe over the last few years then they are a true 12th man.

    Best 5 – Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez

    Northern Ireland

    Chances – Slim. Hardwork and organisation can only take you so far.

    Entertainment – Low. 5 man midfield and Championship quality strikers.

    Manager – Michael O’Neil has led them to a major tournament for the first time in 30 years, and has done an exceptional job.

    Support – The best chant at Euro 16 has already been decided. Will Grigg’s on fire!

    Best 5 –  Roy Carroll, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty


    Chances – Should get through the group. A quarter final would be a successful tournament.

    Entertainment – They’ll be playing with two strikers, so expect goals.

    Manager – Adam Nawałka was a one club man as a player, spending 10 years with Wisła Kraków.

    Support – Extremely passionate. Check out the fans’ displays at the Polish Cup final this year – impressive stuff.

    Best 5 – Lukasz Fabianski, Kamil Glik, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski


    Chances – Solid if unspectacular. May get out of the group in 3rd.

    Entertainment – Great wingers, although the team concentrates mostly of keeping the opposition at bay.

    Manager – Mykhaylo Fomenko has 37 years coaching experience. At 67, this could be his final major tournament.

    Support – Fans of the country’s biggest clubs joined forces back in 2014 to help oust former President Viktor Yanukovych. Over 1000 have not been granted visas to travel, causing protests.

    Best 5 – Andriy Pyatov, Yevhen Khacheridi, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko

    Group D


    Chances – Lots of individual talent, but a manager who has failed to fully harness it.

    Entertainment – Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic should mean some exciting play.

    Manager – Ante Cacic likes to tinker, and is yet to settle on a preferred formation. Could be their failing.

    Support – Caused stoppages in play in their qualifier against Italy with flares and fighting police. Then banned from away games fearing racism. Best avoided.

    Best 5 – Danijel Subašić, Vedran Ćorluka, Ivan Rakitić, Luka Modrić, Mario Mandžukić

    Czech Republic

    Chances – Should be able to get out of their group. Will all come down to their game vs Turkey on June 21st.

    Entertainment – Their main characteristic is organisation, so don’t expect too much flair. If they do fire, it’ll be through the creativity of Tomas Rosicky.

    Manager – Pavel Vrba won Czech Manager of the Year 5 years in a row from 2010 – 2014, but is yet to reach the same heights on the international scene.

    Support – It’s a long time since the glory days of Czechoslovakia winning Euro 1976. Should still have a good following, as long as there isn’t any Ice Hockey on.

    Best 5 – Petr Čech, Tomáš Sivok, Jaroslav Plašil, Tomáš Rosický, Tomáš Necid


    Chances – Not as good as you’d expect, despite being the current holders.

    Entertainment – Lots of technically gifted players, but a lack of goals.

    Manager – Vicente del Bosque is a living legend in Spain, and has won everything as a manager. Retiring after the tournament.

    Support – Fans will be worried after the loss to Georgia in their final pre-tournament friendly. At least they don’t have far to travel.

    Best 5 – Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva


    Chances – Ranked highly by FIFA, but may be let down by a weak defence.

    Entertainment – Some excellent attacking midfielders could grab your attention.

    Manager – Fatih Terim a.k.a The Emperor.

    Support – Get to wear the best looking shirt in the tournament. May not be particularly welcome after booing a minute’s silence for victims of the Paris attacks last year.

    Best 5 – Volkan Babacan, Gökhan Gönül, Ozan Tufan, Arda Turan, Burak Yılmaz

    Group E


    Chances – Highest ranked team according to FIFA. A lot of talent, despite a lack of recent tournament success.

    Entertainment – Huge. The attacking players at their disposal is a little scary, and that’s not including Marouane Fellaini’s new haircut.

    Manager – Marc Wilmots went to four World Cups as a player, and made a brief foray into politics, elected into the Belgium Senate in 2003.

    Support – A group of Belgium fans ended up in the small village of Wales, nr Rotherham, instead of at Cardiff City Stadium during the qualifiers. Hopefully will have more luck with the Sat-Nav on their way to Lyon.

    Best 5 – Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku


    Chances – Not as good as in previous years, and in quite a tough group.

    Entertainment – As ever, the Italians have a great defence. Up front, however, Graziano Pellè leads the line having only managed 11 Premier League goals this season.

    Manager – Antonio Conte is heading to Stamford Bridge to manage Chelsea after the tournament, having recently been cleared of match fixing accusations.

    Support – Another country who have had some hooliganism issues in the past, although this has been improving in recent years.

    Best 5 – Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Insigne, Graziano Pellè

    Republic of Ireland

    Chances – Very tough group, so a place in the last 16 would be a real achievement.

    Entertainment – Arriving via Robbie Keane’s trademark celebration, hopefully.

    Manager – Martin O’Neil is no stranger to England fans, having spent much of his career managing in the Premier League. Roy Keane should provide some good soundbites in his role as assistant.

    Support – Expect a wall of green wherever the Irish play. Do they sell Guinness in Paris?

    Best 5 – Darren Randolph, Seamus Coleman, Aiden McGeady, Shane Long, Robbie Keane


    Chances – Not bad, because Zlatan.

    Entertainment – High, because Zlatan.

    Manager – Erik Hamrén, because Zlatan.

    Support – Blonde, because Zlatan.

    Best 5 – Andreas Isaksson, Andreas Granqvist, Kim Källström, John Guidetti, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Group F


    Chances – Dark horses? Should make it out of the group comfortably and went unbeaten in qualifying.

    Entertainment – Wing backs like to charge forward, which is always fun to watch.

    Manager – Marcel Koller played for Switzerland at Euro 96 and now he’s back leading the Austrians.

    Support – Snow sports dominate back home, but they did a good job at co-hosting Euro 2008.

    Best 5 – Robert Almer, Christian Fuchs, David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic, Marc Janko


    Chances – Came third in their qualifying group behind Northern Ireland and Romania, so not great.

    Entertainment – They like to try and keep possession to protect their defence, and score goals from set-pieces. Low.

    Manager – Bernd Stock is the former Kazakhstan manager who lead Hungary through qualifying. Has spent most of his managerial career as an assistant.

    Support – Could take up to 20,000 fans to France, and hoping to avoid the ugly scenes that marred their recent games against Romania.

    Best 5 – Gábor Király, Tamás Kádár, Zoltán Gera, Ádám Nagy, Balázs Dzsudzsák


    Chances – Incredible achievement to even qualify, the word ‘underdog’ just doesn’t do them justice. Might still manage to get out of a relatively weak group though.

    Entertainment – Off the pitch it will most likely come from listening to commentators attempting to pronounce some of the trickier Icelandic surnames, and on it from Gylfi Sigurdsson.

    Manager – Lars Lagerbäck has led the side to Euro 2016 with the help of Heimir Hallgrímsson, who will be taking sole control once the tournament is over.

    Support – 10% of the population are rumored to be travelling to France, including Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson aka Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane of Game of Thrones fame!

    Best 5 – Hannes Thór Halldórsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Eidur Gudjohnsen


    Chances – Ronaldo vs the world? They are a bit more than a 1 man team, and could go quite far.

    Entertainment – Despite some big name forwards, goals are often a problem for Portugal. Looked blunt in recent friendly against England, albeit with 10 men and no Ronaldo.

    Manager – Fernando Santos managed all three of Portugal’s big clubs before taking charge of the international team via a spell in Greece.

    Support – Crushed by repeated semi-final defeats for the ‘Golden Generation’ in the early 00s, the hope is there that the current crop can go the next step.

    Best 5 – Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Renato Sanches, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo


  5. The Usual Suspects – Types of 5-a-sider

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    Words by Andy Peterson

    As is the case with all team sports, different players have different roles within a squad, and we’re not talking about positions on the field (well, not exclusively.). We’ve taken the time to watch, observe and study our 5-a-side leagues in an attempt to highlight the most common types of 5-a-siders out there, so have a read below and see where you fit in!

    The Keeper
    Not all teams have the luxury of a keeper. Such is their value, they’re regularly courted by other team captains and seen playing multiple matches in an evening. The keeper is arguably the backbone and most important player of any 5-a-side team. We reckon they’re worth at least 9 points a season. Why?

    1. The keeper’s presence means the top scorer can be left to what he does best for those extra precious few minutes instead of having to do his shift between the sticks.
    2. Not having to rotate in goal allows you to stick to your formation, which as you may recall from one of our previous blog posts, is a crucial aspect to any successful campaign.
    3. You have someone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t just willing, but actually enjoys strapping on the gloves and sliding their knees along the astro-turf to make that last ditch save to protect that precious clean sheet he holds so dear.


    Keepers might be crazy, but there’s simply no overstating their value!

    The Resident Ringer
    You know who you are, and we salute you. You’ll all recognize him, because he will almost certainly have played for your team at some point or another. Not just that, he’ll probably have scored a few goals and picked up the man of the match award too! They might live in the area, they might play with another one of the teams in your league, or they may just be incredibly keen footballers. He won’t be registered, but he might even end up playing more than some of the ‘regulars’, such is their endless thirst for more football. Ringers are part of the bloodline of 5-a-side, and are often game savers (literally!). You probably know who I’m talking about in your league, and you probably have his number on speed-dial for those wet and windy Wednesdays, but if you don’t – get it!

    The Captain
    Not dissimilar to some premier league teams, the captain isn’t necessarily the best player, but he’s certainly a cornerstone. Not only was he able to sell you the idea of ‘getting the gang together’ to join a 5-a-side league, he took the initiative to get you all registered. What else? In 5-a-side, the captain is rarely just a captain; he’s also often the manager, the moneyman, and sometimes even the kitman! Like the keeper his true presence is most felt in his absence. Our hats be tipped to those who take on this monumental burden.

    The Young Starlet – AKA. “The Whipper Snapper”
    This player is easiest to spot in teams who’ve been around for a few years, and a big reason why they’re able to keep coming back each season – fresh blood! They may be a younger relation, new work colleague or someone who’s earned their way into the side by simply being able to run forever. They might start out playing in a desperate attempt to field a full team at first, but once people realise how handy a player with endless energy can be they’ll be invited again, and again, and agian. Any longstanding 5-a-side team will know the importance of having your very own ‘youth academy’ is!

    The one who only shows up for the trophy
    Okay, the tagline might be a tad harsh. Usually full of enthusiasm, but for injury, unexpected work commitments or an inability to resist beer in those precious hours between leaving the office and kick off, they haven’t been able to play in eight of the ten matches. Crucially, he has made it for the team photo (see example below). Credit where it’s due, when they do show up these guys offer valuable support and often adopt the role of team manager standing at the sidelines offering valuable insight into the team’s performance, even if their team mates might actually wish they were ready to play instead.

    Champagne Super Rovers (April 16)

    The goal scorer

    Suffice to say, this person is likely responsible for somewhere between 60 to 90 percent of the team’s offensive output in any given season. Like ‘keepers, goal scorers are rare gems, and once discovered are often subject to team captain promising to buy all of their beers at the end of the season do as a ‘signing bonus’. Despite this, we don’t put their value above a pair of golden gloves!

    So there you have it, a brief but hopefully insightful view into some of the major stereotypes found at your night of 5-a-side. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little exploration, and some of you may have even have found some tactical inspirational in your preparations for the coming season. You may already have all these guys in your squad, and if you do – feel lucky! If you haven’t already won a league title then the odds are good that your next trophy isn’t too far away.

  6. Mental Health – The hidden benefits of 5-a-side

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    Words by Nick Frith

    For years mental health has been a subject barely mentioned in football, and even less so in the pub. The classic British stiff upper lip has been in place, with the commonly used footballing phrases of ‘Man Up’ and ‘Run It Off’ making most blokes approach to mental issues quite clear. However, recently this has finally begun to change. It may have taken the tragic deaths of Gary Speed and Robert Enke for many in the sport to realise the importance of mental health, but it is gradually making its way into the public eye. The remarkable fact that the biggest killer of males under 45 is suicide is something that cannot be ignored any longer, and men are finally beginning to talk about mental health. About time too!

    The physical benefits of playing 5-a-side are well documented, but what is less known is the fantastic mental health benefits your weekly game can give you. Not only are you going to get a cardio blast, but also boost your mood, decrease stress and increase happiness.

    Mood – This is something anyone who has ever played a post-work game of football is has probably experienced without even realising. Ever turned up to play in a grump after a rubbish day, only to find 40 minutes later that you’re more enthusiastic, and things don’t seem quite so bad? That’s the effect of 5-a-side. Research has shown the positive effects exercise can have on mood, both short and long term. Putting on your AstroTurf boots is the first step to happiness!

    Stress – Living in London, stress is almost impossible to avoid. From trying to get on the tube on your commute, work deadlines breathing down your neck or counting down the days to payday, stresses are everywhere. So whilst it might be impossible to avoid the cause, dealing with effects is much more straightforward. Stress results in the release of cortisol and adrenalin hormones, which cause the emotional and physical symptoms of stress. Exercise helps use up these hormones and also results in the release of endorphins, thus reducing stress levels and increasing wellbeing.

    Self-esteem – This is one area where 5-a-side can really boost your all round mental health. Physical activity can have a positive influence on our self-esteem, leading to increased wellbeing and improving our ability to cope with stress. Basically, if you take on a cold and wet evening of 5-a-side then your confidence will be boosted in other walks of life. If your results on the pitch start improving this can be felt even more – so even losing by 1 less goal than last week can have a positive effect!

    Social Interaction – Despite being the most populated city in Europe, London can be a pretty lonely place. Ever tried having a conversation with someone on the Tube? Thought not. The social element of playing a team sport can also have a huge effect of your mental health. Signing up to a team can be a great way to meet people, and a group of friends you see every week is a pretty good support network should you need someone to talk to. Moving to London and starting a new job can be pretty intimidating, so playing some 5-a-side can be a great way to introduce yourself to likeminded people in the city.

    Depression – For those with depression, playing sport might feel like the last thing they’d want to do. Low energy levels and anxiety can make sport seem like quite a daunting prospect, but people have found some great results having got out on the pitch. A review of studies has shown that there is evidence that sport can help those with depression – the exact reasons aren’t clear, but as treatments go it seems like a great option.

    Sleep – Everyone wants the chance to get more sleep. 5-a-side can’t give you any more hours of shut eye, but it can improve the hours that you get. By increasing blood flow to the brain and helping to relax your muscles, exercising a recommended amount of 150 minutes a week has been shown to increase the quality of your sleep by up to 65%! This can result in better concentration and alertness, making your day in the office much more enjoyable. 5-a-side can offer so much more than a weekly kickabout!

    If you’ve ever suffered from depression or anxiety, or never given them a second thought, 5-a-side can do some great things for your mental health. Throw in the physical benefits, enjoyment and how easy it is to play, and 5-a-side continues to be one of the best forms of exercise on offer! With Spring around the corner and evenings getting lighter now is a great time to enter your team into a league. Check out all of our league options here.


    If you have been effected by mental health issues, or just want to find out more, there are some great charities offering support and advice:

    CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.

    Samaritans – Confidential 24 hour support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone – 116 123.

    Mind – Promotes the view and needs of people with mental health problems.

  7. New Website Features

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    Words by Nick Frith

    Here at we are always trying to make the football experience as easy as possible for all of our teams. After all, nobody’s 5-a-side game should be stressful; it should be the highlight of the week! It’s often the same old stresses that appear – being short of a player, teammates not letting you know if they can play and nobody checking the kick-off time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get rid of all those worries?

    Our new online profiles and website features aim to do just that! Over the next few weeks all of our team captains will receive log-in details to their profiles, giving them access to the following features:

    • Player availability check

    All Team Organisers will be able to invite all of their teammates to join the team’s online profile, via the ‘My Teams’ tab, by entering their email addresses. Once this is done life will immediately become much easier. After signing up, your teammates will be able to mark their availability online. Suddenly you won’t be chasing everyone to find out who’s off on a stag do and who’s up for the match!

    • Fixture reminders

    Despite the fact that you’ve told all of your team you’re away all weekend and to check the website for the fixture time, you still get into work on a Monday morning to numerous texts and emails from your team trying to find out when the game is this week. Now this no longer needs to be the case! Once you have added your teammates to the team we will send them fixture updates every week, making 5-a-side life hassle free.

    • More detailed and accurate man of the match standings

    Bragging rights within a team are usually settled over the post-match pint, and it should long remain this way! However, now the statistics can play a role in deciding each season’s MVP. Once your team are registered, man of the match awards can be accurately logged so come the end of the season you’ll know once and for all who was most influential in leading your team to glory.

    • Find Ringers

    With kick off just 4 hours away, Gary from accounts has just cried off with a cold. You’ve used up all your favours for this week and now have no one to call on. Fear not! Our ringers system is here to help. You will now have access to a database of players who are available to play at your venue. Simply send them a message and you’ll have found your team the new Lionel Messi*.

    *Quality of player may vary.

    • Online payment system

    The final element of our new website features allows you to keep close track of your team’s league fees and make payments via your profile. It’s never been so simple!


    If you’re a current team and are yet to receive your log in details then please get in touch and we’ll send them out to you straight away. And if you’re not signed up, then this is just another reason to do so. This really is 5-a-side made simple!

  8. The Perfect Gift for a 5-a-side Football Player!

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    Words by Nick Frith

    We’ve reached that time of year again. Come Christmas Eve, thousands of people will be aimlessly charging around shopping centres with a look of panic on their face, trying to find a Christmas present for that final member of the family. The organised amongst us have presents sorted months in advance, but that doesn’t mean they’ve chosen something that the recipient will actually enjoy! We’re here to help, with our selection of gifts for the 5asider in your life. So chose the description below which best fits the recipient of your Christmas cheer, and we have a gift ready selected for you. All you have to do is wrap it!


    The 5-a-side Hero

    If Tuesday night 5-a-side is the highlight of their week, they have a notebook containing their personal goal scoring record over the last 6 years and are always chatting away in their teams WhatsApp group, then you are definitely looking for a present for a 5-a-side hero! Luckily, this year there is only one gift they need. The Five-A-Side Bible has been lovingly put together by Chris Bruce, and covers all aspects of the game we adore. From naming your team to talking tactics, as well some of the most outlandish tales from the world of 5-a-side, this book covers it all and will keep the keenest of 5-a-side keenos quiet until the New Year.

    Amazon – £14.99

    Best Bit – The low down on how to take the perfect 5-a-side penalty is a must read for any proud 5-a-sider.



    The Fitness Freak

    Protein shakes for breakfast and 20 minutes of stretching before bed? If this sounds like the 5-a-side footballer in your life, then the fitness trend is definitely the route to take when it comes to deciding their present this year. Lots of people don’t realise quite how good for you a game of 5-a-side is, and what better way to prove this than tracking your levels of exertion via your heart rate. There are loads of fitness trackers on the market, from Fitbit to Garmin, so have a shop around to find the best fit. We’d recommend finding one that is worn around the chest such as the Polar H7 so it is out of harm’s way during games!

    Various- £30 to £150

    Best Bit – Most fitness trackers link up to your smartphone via Bluetooth, so results will be available just minutes after your match.



    The Equipment Geek

    The 5-a-side revolution is well under way, and kit providers are starting to offer players some fantastic gear. If your planning on spending a bit of money on gifts, then it’s hard to beat a new pair of 5-a-side boots! One of the flashiest has to be the new Adidas Ace TKRZ. Made specifically for artificial turf with a unique geometric sole, these pink and black boots will not only make you stand out but also help you stand up with their extra grip. Any boot named Tekkerz is going to have a big role to play in the 5-a-side world!

    ProDirectSoccer – £115

    Best Bit – A new lacing system will ensure these boots fit perfectly to your feet, giving you the first touch others can only dream of.



    The Goalkeeper

    Goalkeepers are a pretty special breed, so it’s seems only right that they get their own category. I’d suggest getting them something they might not even realise they can buy, a pair of goalkeeping kneepads. Diving around on an artificial pitch can get pretty sore after a while, so kneepads can prevent any pain as well as giving a goalkeeper that little bit of extra confidence when falling at the feet of an attacker.

    Just Keepers – Various

    Best Bit – You can even get base layers with built in goalkeeping pads. Perfect for cold winter night’s!



    The Tactician

    Every team has that one player who is constantly suggesting new tweaks to formation and considering the idea of overlapping full backs (n.b. this does not work in 5-a-side). To spare yourself from having to listen to all of their ideas, grab them a copy of the latest edition of the Football Manager computer game series. It will allow them to immerse themselves in a world of training and transfers, and spare you from having to listen to all of their tactical ideas! Warning: Football Manager addictions have led to lost jobs and ruined marriages, please give gift responsibly.

    Steam – £34.99

    Best Bit – Consider buying the handheld version for iPhone, making boring tube journeys a thing of the past.


  9. The Post-Match Pint

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    Words by Nick Frith

    There are many reasons people love playing 5-a-side. There’s the weekly workout leaving you covered in sweat with a quiet feeling of satisfaction, or the chance to emulate your favourite player and (try to) impress everyone with your skills.

    In my mind, however, there is one reason really stands out; the social element. A great excuse to meet up with your mates, enjoy some football and then settle down for a post-match pint. Once you’ve managed to get over the fact that you’ve just been beaten by 4 men, you can begin to enjoy your surroundings. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure the surroundings are the best they can be! London has such a selection of pubs so it is important to make the right choice, so here’s our league-by-league guide to where to get your post-match tipple.

    Battersea 6-a-side

    Perfectly located on the short stroll from our league venue Newton Prep School to Battersea Park Station is the fantastic Masons Arms. It’s a regular haunt for teams playing in our leagues there, and on arrival you can see why! Extremely welcoming interior with comfy seating makes it perfect for a winter’s evening, whilst the beer garden is an equally good option on a hot summer’s day. Head to their website to pick up a free pint on your first visit – if that doesn’t persuade you I don’t know what will.


    Battersea 5-a-side

    At the other end of Battersea Park Road you’ll find our other league in SW11, which has some equally good locations for your post-match analysis to take place. Our pick would be The Lost Angel. More than just a pub, the eclectic bar has both indoor sofas and a heated garden area, so is equipped for all seasons. What makes The Lost Angel even more inviting is the fact that all of our teams get 15% off all food and drink!



    We’ve got a 4 different venues in Brixton, as well as our offices, so we well aware of the excellent food and drink on offer! There is something for everyone and it would take far too long to list all of our favourites – for food it’s hard to beat Brixton Village, with a huge selection of tasty treats to choose from. A couple of drinking establishments worth mentioning are found opposite each other on Coldharbour Lane, Market House and The Prince of Wales. Both are equally adept for a quick pint or late night partying.


    Clapham Junction

    A short walk from our fantastic 3G pitch at Clapham Junction is an equally fantastic pub, The Plough, situated in a great spot on St John’s Hill. This is another versatile pub with plenty on offer, including a gift wrapping station during December – great excuse for a quick drink! Other favourites around Clapham Junction include The Northcote and The Merchant.



    Our league on Eel Brook Common in Fulham takes place on a Thursday night, which makes a post-match pint pretty much compulsory! There’s plenty of options around Fulham Broadway and Parsons Green – our favourite is The White Horse. The beer selection in here is pretty impressive, 8 cask ales, 135 bottled beers and they even recommend a beer for each dish on their menu. Another option is Brogan’s near Fulham Broadway, an Irish bar which is always showing live sport!


    Clapham South

    Clapham is full of great pubs and bars, and one of our favourites is The Avalon. It’s conveniently located between our league venue and Clapham South station on Balham Hill, and is a great place to wind down post-match, offering great food and drink as well some excellent screens for watching Champions League action. And if you don’t want to bump into your opposition after they’ve just put 10 past you, then you can hide in one of The Avalon’s three beer gardens!



    London Bridge

    With trains at London Bridge Station being about as reliable as England at a World Cup everyone has had 30 minutes to kill after a match at one of our London Bridge leagues. And even if you’re getting on the tube, don’t let that drag you away – SE1 has a fantastic selection of watering holes. In the summer months, the historic beer garden at The George Inn takes some beating. It’s the oldest pub in London, and if it was good enough for Charles Dickens then it’s good enough for us! An alternative option in the winter months is Wheatsheaf. This subterranean boozer has a wide selection of real ales and is very inviting on a cold winter’s evening.



    For beer lovers, there is one clear choice for your post-match tipple after a game in our Marylebone league. The Globe is just 2 minutes from Marylebone station, and has a wide range of craft beers to choose from. They look after our teams really well, with some great end of season offers. Punters often pour out onto the streets, and with a new kitchen opening soon its popularity will only increase!




    Our new Shoreditch league is kicking off in January, so we’ve done some research to find out where to send teams after their first game! For anyone who wants some more football action after their game, then Bar Kick is the place to head. Beer and table football? Perfect. If you don’t fancy the walk down Kingsland Road, then The Macbeth is the place to go. It’s a great venue hosting loads of live music, as well as some great beers.


    Canary Wharf

    Another of our new leagues, Canary Wharf has a good selection of venues for post-match refreshments. Our recommendation has to be The Parlour, slap bang the in the middle of The Wharf. Great food and drink, and always full of suits having an after work drink, which makes for a great atmosphere. The boys behind the bar used to play in our London Bridge league, so they know a thing or two about 5-a-side as well!


    Have we missed out your favourite? Get in touch and let us know where your team likes to go for their post-match pint!

  10. The best 5-a-side pitches in the world!

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    Words by Nick Frith


    Here at we’re pretty proud of the selection of 5-a-side pitches we can offer teams throughout London. You can play in the shadow of the Shard at London Bridge Marlborough Gardens, alongside the railway arches at Brixton Ferndale and a stone’s throw from Regents Park at Marylebone, but none quite compare to the pitches below. We’ve scoured the world for the finest 5-a-side pitches on offer, and here they are.

    Koh Panyee Football Pitch

    A fishing village in Thailand built on stilts by Indonesian fisherman. Probably not the first place you’d think to look for a spot to get your weekly game in, but Koh Panyee is home to one of the most inventive 5-a-side pitches out there! Back in 1986, a group of children decided they wanted to start a football team, and with no space to play decided to build their own floating football pitch. A few years down the line and they’re one of the most successful junior clubs in south Thailand! A pretty spectacular setting, even if you do have to swim to get the ball after a miss-placed cross.


    Sao Carlos favela

    Alongside golden beaches and carnival, football is pretty synonymous with Brazil. Famed for producing some of the most skilled and creative players the world has ever seen, it’s not a surprise that you can find pitches throughout the country. Some of the most remarkable can be found in the favelas of Rio, where poverty is rife and football is seen as one way to find a better life. One of the most impressive is found in the Sao Carlos favela, built into the hillside overlooking the city.



    This fairly innocuous looking pitch gave host to a pretty special game of 5-a-side in 2014. Ten (apparently) unknowing players rocked up for their usual Tuesday night kick-about before Mastercard, in their role as a Champions League sponsor, took over. Cue the Champions League anthem, mascots, flags and a full crowd appearing, before Pierluigi Collina strolled out to take control of proceedings. Watch the full video below to see how the players reacted. Just don’t expect this sort of treatment in any of our leagues!


    Mumbai KickForAll

    India is about to become a growing force in world football. With stars such as Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires and Alessandro Del Pierro strutting their stuff in the Indian Super League, it’s no surprise that football fever has taken control. And now they’ve got a top rate 5-a-side pitch to play on. Based on the Powai Hills in Mumbai, this 3G pitch sits between two high rises, making for a pretty impressive view. The same company have just opened a second venue on a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. Sounds like a tough gig.


    ‘The Cage’

    Whilst its existence might be questioned, there is no doubting how cool it would be to play in ‘The Cage’. Created as a Nike advert in the build up to the 2002 World Cup, it saw 8 teams of the world’s best footballers (Henry, Totti and Nakata made up one side) take part in a first-goal-wins tournament on a caged pitch inside the hull of a ship, obviously. The set up is pretty similar to our league at Brixton Rec, except with Eric Cantona as referee. Sadly none of us will ever get to play there, as a Luis Figo thunderbolt sunk the damn thing in the follow up advert. Cheers, Luis.

    Footballer’s house, Cheshire

    Rumored to have nearly become Mario Balotelli’s gaff, this pad certainly fits the bill for a flashy footballer. Complete with swimming pool, games room and helipad, the house is certainly pretty extravagant. The piece de resistance is of course the 45ft football pitch, for hosting some pretty serious 5-a-side tournaments. You can all celebrate after in the private bar, of course. Yours for a cool £4.75M. Alternatively, you could always just build your own at home – just make sure you don’t do an Adam Lallana and forget to apply to planning permission!


    Adidas Futsal Park

    Another bit of legacy left after the 2002 World Cup, this 5-a-side pitch has been built on top of a shopping mall in the middle of Tokyo. No biggie. Due to the location, it can be a pretty expensive place to play – a 90 minute session can set you back ¥20,000 (£110) at peak times. As the most populated city in the world, it’s hardly a surprise that space is at a premium in Tokyo. Still, worth it for a game of 5-a-side!