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Everyone You've Ever Played Against At 5-A-Side

Five-a-side is a triumph of refinement, the beautiful game bent to the needs of the everyman. It's football without the running, without driving 2 hours for an away game that gets called off, without the terror of having to head a ball that's been punted into the orbit and is almost certainly covered in dog dirt.

Perhaps most crucially, it's a format that means you're never more than an 45 minutes from a post-match shandy.

Whilst a game for all shapes, sizes and competence, we've pinned down a couple of the characters you're guaranteed to meet before long in the hallowed cages of your local five-a-side centre.

1. The Lad Who Is No Where Near As Good As He Thinks

Always the first to slag off others and ruthlessly selfish with the ball, this guy’s largely a pain in the arse to play with.

How To Spot One:

  • Plenty of official stash and astros that cost way too much for the standard of hoofball being played.
  • Prone to ‘haircuts’.
  • Wears tiny, custard cream size shinpads in a Stanislavskian bid to feel more Jack Grealish and thus be Jack Grealish.

Special Ability:

  • Dribbling aimlessly.
  • Scoring one eye-catching goal a season that maintains his vastly overinflated opinion of himself.
  • Not going in goal despite the ‘5 minutes in’ round robin system being clear as f*cking day and agreed on by EVERYONE prior to kick off.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Passing to other people.
  • Merking himself (see Exhibit A).
     


Exhibit A.


2. The Non-Footballer

Inevitably someone’s housemate’s brother. Dragged along at the last minute to ensure a game actually happens, the non-footballer is a necessary evil but an evil all the same. Best served ‘marking a space’ rather than attempting to do anything with the ball or shackling an opposition.

How To Spot One:

  • Will be seen tentatively asking the names of other players as they all simultaneously wang balls at the goal from 5 yards out during the ‘warm up’.
  • Entirely unsuitable footwear - Sondicos from the 1990s, a pair of Lonsdale slip-ons or the dreaded ‘work shoe’.
  • A pair of swimming shorts.

Special Ability:

  • Air shots.
  • Picking up back passes when banished to play in goal.
  • Ruining everything.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Balls from a different court. Has so little faith in his ability, he resorts to picking the ball up and throwing it back, often even failing to do that at the first go.

3. The Lardy Old Bloke

A big old boy who, on first inspection, looks like he might well be a Non-Footballer. The Lardy Old Bloke, it turns out, was a semi pro back in the day and has a touch Dimi Berbatov would murder for. Hangs around up front and bangs them in for fun.

How To Spot One:

  • Resembles a jacket potato in shorts. Like a slightly svelter Steve Bruce.
  • Often seen merrily revelling in the fury of younger, fitter lads who cannot fathom how he’s netted a quadruple hat-trick.

Special Ability:

  • Due to weighing more than a cow, he turns like the Bismarck. Impossible to muscle off the ball during said mile-wide rotation, however.
  • Foot like the Hadron Collider – scores plenty past cowering keepers without gloves through sheer velocity of shot alone.


The Duke - the world's greatest ever Lardy Old Bloke.

Achilles' Heel:

  • He is the opposite of Dirk Kuyt - this lad offers less than now't without the ball.

4. The Scally

Local badboy who’s clearly up to no good most of the time but bloody loves a knock about in the old 5-a-side cage.

How To Spot One:

  • A TRUE POLYESTER PRINCE

Special Ability:

  • Blazing doobies on the side of the pitch whilst waiting to play.
  • Fitting in sartorially. 5-a-side is the one place his default 'tracky bottoms tucked into socks' looks is actually appropriate.



Ready to do battle. Image via.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Authority figures – knows the inside of the referee’s notebook only too well.
  • Stamina
  • Paying subs

5. ‘Keeper

‘Maverick’ who pays actual money to spend an hour each week diving around on a really cold, hard floor whilst people hammer shots at him from about 3 yards.

How To Spot One:

  • Padded trousers that look like a they could withstand alien weaponry if required. They are his most beloved possession (see Exhibit B).
  • Owns gloves that cost more than £5.
  • Will go to his grave proclaiming the superior quality of one of the following niche keeping brands over the others - Uhlsport, Reusch, Sells or Mitre.


Exhibit B

Special Ability:

  • Underarm roll outs.
  • Exasperatedly shouting things like ‘WE’RE WIDE OPEN LADS!”, “RUNNERS!!!” and “DO WE F*CKING WANT IT?!” once his team’s chronic lack of fitness gets exposed about 15 minutes in and everyone bins off tracking back.
  • Banging on about how Manuel Neuer deserves to win the Ballon d'Or over Messi and Ronaldo.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Anything requiring the use of his feet.
  • Regular social interaction.

6. The Local Ringer

An alternative to the Non-Footballer and often just as disruptive. Tends to be a young lad who spends his days loitering around the cages in the hope of a game and thus is often far too good, ruining the fun for the pudgy, late 30-somethings who foolishly asked him if he fancied levelling out the numbers after a drop out.

How To Spot One:

  • Can be seen ‘just doing some skills’ by himself in plain view of the pitches.

Special Ability:

  • Being really fit and capable.
  • Tends to have own ball.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Being told to sling his hook when a missing player actually turns up 15 minutes into the game.

7. The Stat Guy

Sociopath who keeps a running tally of every possible stat in the desperate hope that he’ll be plucked from the obscurity of 5-a-side on a Tuesday night by a Moneyball obsessed owner of a professional club.

How To Spot One:

  • Listen for any kind of inter-team conflict. The Stat Guy will soon make himself known.

Special Ability:

  • Anal retention of information absolutely no one is interested in. E.g. “Mate, I actually average 2.2 accurate through balls per game this season. If you compare that number to those in the Premier League, I’m actually right up there with Mesut Ozil.”
  • Claiming a goal because a shot “brushed his shorts” as it went through.

Achilles' Heel:

  • The Tony Pulis School of Academic Thought - absolutely hates being told that stats are utterly meaningless and nothing matters but the result.

8. The Nutter

A normally restrained man who lets 20 years of frustration about his marriage and career come vomiting out the second he enters the pitch.

How To Spot One:

  • Lunatic repeatedly bundling into people at 1000mph (Exhibit C is absolutely textbook stuff).
  • Check for rugby shorts. Egg chasers and their tedious enthusiasm for roughing everyone up can often slip through the net.
  • Tend to be under 6ft tall. No idea why.


Exhibit C

Special Ability:

  • Indiscriminately hacking harder than anyone when the ball gets locked down amongst a forest of limbs in the corner of the pitch.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Understanding the unspoken rule that 98% of people who play five a side don’t want a fight and just fancy a decent run about with their mates.

9. The Socialiser

Keen on a post-match beer more than anything else. Chronic ‘stiff knee’/open disregard for exercise means he’s rarely happier than when his services on the pitch aren’t required at all.

How To Spot One:

  • Stood on the side-lines, raucously cackling at every blunder from his mates.
     

Special Ability:

  • Subbing himself off at every possible opportunity.
  • One man chants.
  • Chugging pints.

Achilles' Heel:

  • Having to play a full match.
  • He will let off a flare on the sidelines during the last game of the season and incur a 4-month ban from the leisure centre.

Apropos of nothing, here's a reminder of the most perfect distillation of the art form ever caught on camera.
 

God bless you 5-a-side, don't you ever change.

Pete Starr

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Cover image via.