8 Five-A-Side Football Crimes

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Despite the continuing woes of the national side, football remains the most popular team sport in England, with 1.9m adults playing at least once a week according to Sport England. Key to this popularity is the lunch break or weekday evening five-a-side.

The small pitch brings intensified involvement, a heart-warming sense of camaraderie and a well-earned escape from the stresses of modern life. But like all parts of life on this sceptred isle it also brings an unspoken set of rules which somebody could really do with saying out loud so somebody doesn’t spend all game as keeper. (Yes, that somebody is Coach). These are the football faux pas that’ll earn you a permanent spot on the bench.

1. Spraying Hollywood Balls

In your head, you are the marketing department’s/England’s very own late-career Wayne Rooney, switching play with sumptuous 90-yard passes to feet. You’ve even got hair plugs! Thing is, five-a-side isn’t about that. At all. The pitch isn’t even close to 90 yards. Five-a-side is about quick one-twos and constant movement, and getting as much play as you can from the £80 you boys have just dropped on your broken bottle-free private pitch. Make some runs.

2. Not Sticking with Your Man

Zonal marking has its place in the upper echelons of 11-a-side football, but not on the smaller pitch. It’s all about man-to-man action here – a duel of endurance, agility, speed and skill between you and the new guy who’s only here because Tim from accounts dropped out last minute. Again. You gonna let the new guy show you up? In your backyard? Hell no! It’s vital to your team’s chances, your fitness and your enduring legacy that you keep him in your crosshairs whenever your side’s defending.

3. Having a Hairdryer Moment

Yes, we all saw your keeper get nutmegged from the halfway line. Yes, it was because his attention was on that funny-looking dog barking at his shadow on the other side of the park. Yes, we’re all a little bit annoyed by it. Are you going to be the guy that yells at him and makes him feel any worse? Are you going to be the guy that goes full Fergie and strips all the fun from this early evening kick-about? Don’t be that guy.

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4. Persistently Blasting it from Range

You’ve got two chances to hoof it into the back of the net from your own half. Max. If you don’t score with either of those, as soon as you line up a third speculative effort, you’re stepping into dangerous territory. Dangerous earn-yourself-a-nickname-you-really-don’t-want territory.

5. Wearing Boots Above Your Station

Delightfully nostalgic 1994/5 Arsenal shirt? Check. Very well-worn plain gym shorts? Check. Argyll work socks because you’ve forgotten your shin-pads and footy socks again? All good. But wait, what are those? Those things on your feet? Are they… are they tassels? When did football boots start getting tassels!? Keep your nose clean and avoid crimes against football fashion with this shotgun guide to the coolest five-a-side boots on the market right now.

6. Getting a Reducer in

Sure, let the guy you’re marking (who’s probably wearing boots above his station) know you’re there – perhaps with a friendly hello, but not with a two-footed ankle-breaker. One of your team-mates will be on the receiving end of the inevitable retribution and will be peeling their jeans off the astro-burn for weeks to come. Save it for Sunday league on Hackney Marshes.

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7. Pointless Dribbling

Being able to slalom your way through the opposition while never once losing control of that precious leather sphere is an envy-inducing quality. Being able to weave your way through the opposition, to exactly the place where your team-mater has been screaming for the ball for the past 90 seconds, is not.

8. Not Taking Your Turn in Goal

No-one wants to do it, but someone has to (at least until Silicon Roundabout invents Uber for five-a-side keepers). If you’re not prepared to sacrifice a half for your team-mates every once in a while, sign up to a one-a-side football league.

Craft beer drinker, Devonian, fisherman and former content director of Coach online, Chris contributed style coverage and features between 2016 and 2019.