Parklife: Local football column

Action from the a local league at the weekend
Action from the a local league at the weekend
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“Time” yelled 10 team-mates in unison, as the dodgy centre-half brought the ball down, facing his own goal, 14 yards out.

“Time” was clearly something to which he was not accustomed, as a hurried, panicky, sliced clearance resulted in a corner.

“Back post,” screamed the even dodgier goalkeeper, hurriedly trying to organise his defence, ‘defenced being a term used loosely, of course. 2

Twenty seconds later, after a game of pinball in the penalty area that would have done The Who’s ‘Tommy’ proud, a shout was heard, which had clearly came straight from the FIFA Pro Licence Coaching Manual… “Empty it!” This of course is a phrase I am more used to hearing from ‘the boss’ when the washing machine has completed its’ cycle.

But it did get me thinking about the curious language which is only understood by footballers. In itself, the cry of “time” is utterly meaningless.

And yet, despite the potential confusion, the possible answers, everyone knew exactly what everyone meant. Except of course the dodgy centre-half, who somehow managed to ignore the pleadings, orders, or observations of his colleagues and gave away that corner.

It amuses me how grassroots players copy their so-called illustrious, overpaid heroes. More dodgy coaching results from watching professional football, either live or on the television, although it isn’t really coaching, it’s copying without understanding.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 99.8% of football that is played in this country that is NOT the Premier or Football League would be better off doing what comes naturally, rather than copying the mercenaries.

And in any case, what is grassroots? When a non-league side are televised they are often referred to as “grassroots”, but where should the dividing line fall?

Grassroots means truly amateur. Playing for enjoyment, not payment, on a potentially low-quality pitch, where any hoof upfield in excess of 30 yards is greeted with a unanimous yell of “Good ball”, irrespective of whether or not the “good ball” finds its intended target.

There are of course times when footballers don’t understand things – usually phrases emanating from their “coach”.

One understands the desire to raise standards of coaching, as expressed by the FA, and support that worthy goal. A junior coach was witnessed in a local league game recently making his team of Under-11s “warm down” for 30 minutes after an 8-1 defeat. You would suspect this was more by way of punishment or frustration, rather than in the interests of their physical well-being. In the changing rooms afterwards he complained that they had not been alert enough to the second and third-phase ball opportunities with which their opponents had provided them.

The clue was in the managers’ coat that he was wearing, emblazoned with the club badge and sponsors’ logo of a Football League side. Just let the kids play, please.