If you’re good at football stop reading this now. There’s nothing for you here. Go back to building motorbikes, kissing girls and being totally at ease with yourself in all social situations.
Have they gone yet? Good
I am not good at football. I like to watch it. But I have never been good at it. Up until recently all my memories of playing the game involved me marveling sadly at other people on the pitch. The intuitive way they received the ball, shielding and shepherding it like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. It never feels that way when I play. To me the ball is a curse. And despite my best efforts I cannot hide from it. It seeks me out with the vengeful intent of a man fresh out of prison, hell-bent on punishing the snitch who put him away.
All that being said, I recommend that you give yourself a new No1 priority right now: find a way to play football every week.
About a year ago I was drafted into a weekly five-a-side game with a bunch of fat, lazy, permanently hungover media trashboys at Russell Square’s exemplary Coram’s Fields pitches. I’ve played pretty much every week since and I am a better man because of it.
First up: health benefits. Obvious and boring, so let’s not dwell. It’s better than the gym but so's being lashed with a thorn-whip in the eighth circle of hell for all eternity.
Here’s the main thing: you need something to think about when you want to get to sleep. An image to have in the mind’s eye that isn’t related to Spotify dinner party playlists, mortgage rates or that Sloppy Giuseppe pizza in the fridge that’s now two days out of date but somehow too big to fit in the bin. Playing football will provide you with these images. There’ll be lots of stumbling and toil, sure, but then one day – almost by accident – you'll turn onto a gorgeously weighted through-ball from Rapid Alan, lean back and swipe-spank the ball with the exact right bit of your foot so that it arcs up and into the top corner of the goal. And that – the grateful, billowing net – is what you will see every time you go to bed for the next three weeks. And you will have the sweetest dreams because of it.
Oh, this is important: do not play with a bunch of frustrated dorks from marketing who scream themselves puce every time you miscontrol a backpass. Play with people who actually like you. And make sure that among their number is someone who's even worse at football than you. That's crucial.
Finally, it's worth playing football simply as a new way to experience beer. Because that pint I'll be holding next Tuesday at 8:12pm, legs aching as I explain to a patient friend how "I've realised I'm actually a natural trequartista", that pint will be the sweetest I've ever known. It always is.
Words by Joe Mackertich
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