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Tag Archive: Football

  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. 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

    Albania

    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

    France

    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

    Romania

    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

    Switzerland

    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

    England

    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

    Russia

    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

    Slovakia

    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

    Wales

    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

    Germany

    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

    Poland

    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

    Ukraine

    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

    Croatia

    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

    Spain

    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

    Turkey

    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

    Belgium

    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

    Italy

    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

    Sweden

    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

    Austria

    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

    Hungary

    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

    Iceland

    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

    Portugal

    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

     

  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.

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    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. www.thecalmzone.net

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

    Mind – Promotes the view and needs of people with mental health problems. www.mind.org.uk

  5. New Website Features

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    Words by Nick Frith

    Here at 5aside.org 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 5aside.org 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!

  6. 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!

     

    Brixton

    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.

     

    Fulham

    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!

     

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    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.

     

    Marylebone

    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!

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    Shoreditch

    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!