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Tag Archive: 5-a-side

  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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!