Hard but fair (or not)
Being big and brutal isn’t enough for this Sunday League institution. They bring the whole gamut of dirty tricks: late tackles, elbows, shirt-pulling – you name it. And that’s just the players. Their lino is invariably a cheat, while Stella-wielding fans with neck tattoos threaten to ‘do you’ after the game. You could just let ’em win... but where’s the honour in that?
That’s Barça, not Barcelona, to these posers, who turn up with cones so they can do a proper warm-up. Their kit is immaculate, boots top of the range and football pleasing on the eye – but sadly ineffective. They won’t shoot, can’t defend and take every set-piece short, and to top it all off their manager, a frustrated ex-player in a bench coat, insists they do a proper warm-down while you’re in the bar. #embarrassing
The Sunday League giant-killers
Three divisions below you and it shows – next round of the cup, here we come. But before you know it, complacency has kicked in. You’ve dropped to their level. Their hapless-looking keeper is playing like the adopted child of Jan Tomaszewski and Julian Speroni. And now their suspiciously-much-better-than-everyone-else-in-the-team striker (i.e. ringer) has grabbed a winner while you argue amongst yourselves.
Not bothered, still brilliant
They rock up late in a variety of vans, all fags and banter, with bits of kit missing and generally looking like they don’t care – then promptly rip all-comers to shreds. Introducing… the team of ex-academy players. Too lazy to make it as pros, but too good for this level, they laugh at the inevitable brilliance of their goals, rather than celebrate. Don’t even think about trying to wind them up, either – they don’t care, remember?
Almost certainly formed over an organic brunch in London’s Shoreditch, this lot know everything there is to know about the tactics and nothing at all about playing. Mainly university-educated and bearded, they wear a Dukla Prague retro kit but would play in their brogues and pashminas if league rules allowed it. They’re quite skilful but the only thing they’ll tackle is a fairtrade coffee. Pat Nevin is their favourite pundit.
Five things you’ll always find in a Sunday League dressing room
1. The opposition
Having your own place to change is a luxury at this level. And as if things weren’t already awkward enough, especially post-match, you may have to share with the ref, too.
2. iPod speakers
Behold the chief accessory of the footballer who doesn’t have his priorities straight. He turns up with a hangover and without a towel, but never forgets his ‘choons’, however terrible they are.
3. Old mud
Piles of it, all over the floor, having had so long to harden that you could break a window with it – which is just as well...
4. A locked window
If anywhere on Earth is in need of fresh air, it’s a confined space where 22 sweaty men (plus subs) get undressed and fart a lot. Yet this small, precious beacon of light is, without fail, either locked or painted shut. Go figure.
5. One sock/shinpad/boot
Never a pair, never clean and never of the requisite quality to be worth taking home. That old blister plaster hidden among the old mud would be of more use.
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