When playing five-a-side, it would be wise not to emulate Trainspotting’s Francis Begbie Nick Mitchell 1 year Tuesday November 22nd 2016 “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.” One of Albert Camus’s more t-shirt friendly quotes, and it’s fair to say the French existentialist writer wasn’t talking about luminescent orange boots, sponsored tweets or complimentary Range Rovers. He was more likely making a point about teamwork and camaraderie, a sense of collective purpose that renders your everyday worries unimportant while you’re on the pitch. And for thousands of ordinary men and women, this can be found in the pursuit of five-a-side football, a game and culture far removed from the elite professional game.
The Football Association reported in 2014 that small-sided football was “the most popular and fastest growing area” of the sport, with over 1.5 million adults playing every week in the UK, and 30,000 teams playing in small-sided leagues. Chris Bruce, a 20-year five-a-side veteran and author of The Five-a-Side Bible, spoke to i about the secrets of success, tactics and teamwork, and the unique bonds that grow between people on astroturf – even if they barely know each other. What makes 5-a-side different (aside from the obvious) “Part of the beauty of the game is that it is played in so many different formats,” says Bruce. “But they generally all require you playing in a much tighter space than 11-a-side. 5-a-side attributes • good technique • quick thinking • a reliable trick or two • stamina “The type of players that succeed are not necessarily the ones that get on well with the 11-a-side game.
There are few opportunities to ping a ball 40 yards or play any type of kick-and-run game, for instance. “The players who are well suited to five-a-side are those that have really good technique and who are able to think quickly. Some people say ‘the first five yards are in your head’ and whilst it’s usually people with no pace who tell you that the most, there is some truth in it. “Much of the five-a-side game is played over these shorter distances so the thinking-man has an advantage. Of course it helps to know a few tricks of the trade as well, like most of the old-timers do.” The art of the team name “It’s too hard to pick a favourite, but when I look down at a league table and see classics like ‘Murder on Zidane’s Floor’, ‘The Neville Wears Prada’, or ‘Maradonna Kebab’, it still brings me a grin.” Chris Bruce How to get involved Most players join teams and ongoing games via word of mouth, or online forums like Gumtree. If you’re a first-timer, Bruce recommends starting with a more relaxed game until you find your level: “I’d recommend you just get involved in a casual kickabout, rather than flinging yourself in at the deep end into a league. “The chances are you’ve got some friends or colleagues who play in a weekly game and are probably looking for an extra player. “Generally, these sessions are fairly social and quite informal.
Teams tend to be picked each week so that they’re relatively well matched. “Of course, nobody wants to be the weak link, but everyone has to start somewhere and you’ll find that over the weeks you do start to improve (especially as you improve your fitness).”