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Jeux Sans Frontieres

sunday-league-football1

 

A weekend with no football doesn’t have to be the vacuum we all dread. Look on it as an opportunity to spend precious time with your loved ones. To catch up on a few jobs around the house or maybe see if an elderly neighbour would like a hand getting the garden sorted out.  There are plenty of ways to fill the time you would normally spend obsessing about Arsenal. One thing you shouldn’t do under any circumstances is waste a second trawling through the internet reading Arsenal blogs. There is no match therefore there is no Arsenal ergo there is nothing for bloggers to blog about. Go on, get out, ride your bike, walk the dogs teach the Myna bird to whistle Ave Maria but for goodness sake don’t sit in brooding and trying to find out interesting Arsenal related facts which quite simply don’t exist.
Ah yes you might say but what if our players got hurt or played well or played badly in the internationals? Doesn’t that matter? They are Arsenal players after all, even if they are wasting their talents in pointless fifa-fixtures. Well you see that’s all well and good but if they did get stretchered off they’ll either play for us in the next game or they won’t and we’ll find out then. It’s pretty futile to spend the intervening days speculating, it won’t change the outcome. Instead of getting yourself in a funk over that which you cannot change, here’s an idea; get out and try to reconnect with football. Real football. Go to the park and watch a bunch of lads or lasses as they scurry about in the mud. Get a ball and go to the local five a side court and have a kick about with your mates. We all spend and waste so much time on the internet I think it’ll do us good to use the international break as an opportunity rather than a curse.
George reminded me yesterday that we are in danger of becoming too po faced and serious about football. Tactics and transfers and boardroom shenanigans – it can drag you down and squeeze the life out what is supposed to be a diverting pastime and not an all consuming obsession. We were chatting about football for pleasure rather than as a nail biting, arse clamping sweat drenched weapon of self flagellation which it all too often is for fans trapped in the information age.
Years back, before the knees popped and the back cracked I actually got a team going . Leaning on the bar one night and talking football related shite, myself and a few drinking buddies realised we all loved playing the game but were to a man so utterly crap that we’d never got to play for the school team. I made the rugby team but that was because no one else wanted to play. We only had fourteen players in a game that demanded fifteen in each side. But as for my true love, football, well let’s face it, the school’s first and second elevens were dominated by the chisel chinned good looking blokes who beat up people  for their lunch money, were shaving at the age of 13 and got to snog all the really fit girls. So we decided then and there to form a side made up of all those blokes who just loved to play but could never get into a proper team.

billypanel

We got the forms from the local FA, attended the AGM and organised sponsorship to pay for the kit, argued over what colour shirts we should wear, found a home ground and lo it came to pass that Reg’s Bar First and Only Eleven was formed. We were shit. Unbelievably, catastrophically poor. Some of us were keen, some were vaguely fit or had been once upon a time. But mostly we were dire. Our keeper was about five feet two on tip toes and took so much acid at weekends that he often could be seen saving shots that hadn’t happened yet, our centre forward’s warm up routine consisted of jogging from the changing room to the touchline and throwing up last night’s cider. Myself and the other central midfielder were in those days partial to a bit of waccy baccy and often shared a half time reefer in his car which was anything but performance enhancing. I remember once trying to kick the ball hard enough to actually reach the goal from the penalty spot while we were warming up before a Sunday morning match. The ball trickled agonisingly forward then held up in a nasty divot three feet from the goal. Our keeper dived high and to his right. That was the closest I ever came to scoring.

 
But you see none of it mattered because we had such a great time. After a couple of seasons rooted to the bottom of the lowest division the thing got spoiled by proper footballers joining in and the advent of training sessions and tactics but until then it was just the best team I could imagine being part of. It must have been during the era when Eric Cantona played for Leeds and they had that Ooh Ah Cantona chant because we stole and adapted it for our side. In the clubhouse afterwards you could barely hear the guy calling the numbers for thfutbol1e meat raffle over our lustful chorus of Ooh Ah Reg’s Bar, I said ooh Ah Reg’s Bar. There was a famous game which we lost 11 – 1 and our goal scorer was carried from the pitch by the rest of us shoulder high like Bobby Moore in ’66. The opposition, big brutal print factory workers unaware of what Robert Maxwell was up to with their pensions, just stared at us in utter bewilderment. You could see them thinking ‘Didn’t we just muller that shower of shit?’ But they weren’t to know it was our first ever goal, we’d never drawn so much as a save from an opposition keeper before. Similarly when we first managed to lose by less than double figures and the singing went on throughout the afternoon, the team that had crushed us by nine clear goals left the club house shaking their heads bemused and unable to fathom the wild abandon of our celebrations.
It’s too easy to get obsessed with the big prize, the must win, the nit picking, combing through of the minutiae of every performance. Too dangerous and too slippery a slope. Try not to forget why we ever started watching in the first place. We actually enjoy the game for it’s own sake, don’t we? So go on, push your cap to a jaunty angle, thrust your hands in your pocket and whistle a merry tune as you walk down the street this week, and if you see a vaguely spherical stone why not try to dribble it round the lamppost and see if you can’t score through the next open gateway. It’s supposed to be fun after all.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

43 comments on “Jeux Sans Frontieres

  1. Great write up Stew, it brings back many memories… Playing on Hackney marshes where the pitches were so tight packed, the backs of goalposts were painted green, so you didn’t shoot at the wrong posts. When I made my debut for Downham and Bromley boys club we got beaten 30 (yes thirty) nil ouch!!

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  2. Great writing Stew – the further my last game of football recedes the more I miss it

    Off to Hamlet today – 100% bleak tragedy with everyone dead at the final whistle

    No nasty surprises

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  3. Probably the best football article most of us will read this weekend.

    Fine work.

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  4. Anicoll, is that Dulwich Hamlet?…….hello…hello?…..oh fuck off tumbleweed!………..sorry.

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  5. Ah, Hackney Marshes. I remember a game where our centre back inexplicably picked the ball up in our 18 yard box and conceded a penalty. He had reacted to the referee on the pitch next to us. No sympathy from our ref…..

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  6. Well done number 10, that made me smile through my hangover,Reg’s bar are my kind of team-dont you just hate the “well I played football to quite a high level” brigade? Just fuck off you self important bore! (That’s them Stew not you). Say ooh aah Regs bar say ooh aah Regs bar!

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  7. Actually I played golf to quite a high level,Could have been East Londons answer to Tiger….,,,had a lovely swing and everything, it was just that windmill you always get on the 18th that did me every time.

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  8. Typical, I get it in the ear, from the missus about the amount of time I spend reading or researching info or writting nonsense for another site, come on here and get it in the ear from you lot about being online. Can relate somewhat to that goalkeeper though. Shouldn’t really admit that.

    I remember an end of season write up about myself from my then manager, “likes talking to the opposition and holds a season ticket with the physio”.

    Anyway off to see some lambing with the nipper.

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  9. Alas poor Yogi – I knew him Mel

    Never played Hackney Marshes, usually Regents Park, Blackheath, Finsbury Park

    Last game I ever played at WHL (Haringey Boro ground in case you wondered )

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  10. fantastic right up and im sure most people can empathise, I played for good sides and bad sides and even have a few medals. I remember playing against one side in the snow and only one of them had kit the rest wore coats and two even had wellies, but as this post points out it was the fact they turned up to play in the snow proved their love of football. I think there are people who comment on football who had never felt the love either because they always played to seriously or because they haven’t played at all.
    what Stew has so brilliantly illustrated is football is not just something that happens on a square screen but is something to be enjoyed by a collective of comrades a goal that this blog has fantastically achieved

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  11. Now that is what I call writing.
    I have never enjoyed as much.
    ” the thing got spoiled by proper footballers joining in and the advent of training sessions and tactics but until then it was just the best team I could imagine being part of.” That is priceless.
    Without wanting to come all over as a sniveling git,Thanks Stew ,It is a privilege to read your work and to know you.

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  12. “something to be enjoyed by a collective of comrades a goal that this blog has fantastically achieved”
    That is what a blog should be.

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  13. George, I buy less and less ARSENAL “brand” gear so what do think about sorting out some Positively ARSENAL shirts ?

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  14. Mrs. GP is on a mission to get me out into the snow to clear the drive. I thought wanted to build a snowman. Maybe we should shape him into an image of Thierry Henry…

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  15. The current thing about Arsenalless weekends for me is that I tend to be working, as I am at this moment, (pssst tell noone!) making it easier for me to be off for the weekends when we are playing. Having this blog available has made the odd few minutes (cough) access to the internet much more fun at such times.

    On, therefore, to today’s blog : What a great read. Thanks.

    I like a few above have played in various teams in the past and fortunately collected a couple of medals. I have, however, been in teams that have received double figure thrashings and, I kid you not, friends that I still have regular contact with a couple of decades or more later, are friends that I played in the ‘poor’ teams with. The successful more serious teams I played for – I have trouble naming those I played with. Stewws article explains why that is.

    Excellent

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  16. Oh yeah, Billy’s Boots Pic … marvellous. I remember a friend once saying “Steve had Billy’s boots today” after a rare game when the ball seemed to leave my foot in a generally appropriate direction each time I touched it…

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  17. Billy’s boots was great, but what we really need is Bernard Briggs in Goal with
    hot shot Hamish up front and maybe Alf Tupper in the Theo role. I know I’m sad

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  18. ahh hot shot Hamish that takes back, but surely billy the fish or jonny cannon in goal

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  19. Myself and the other central midfielder were in those days partial to a bit of waccy baccy and often shared a half time reefer in his car which was anything but performance enhancing

    ts ts ts shame on you! the body is a temple you sinner. sports and drugs dont mix. obscene dirty filthy and immoral. it is thoroughly performance enhancing. i always have one on the way, and one after … i play 3 times a week.. one 8×8 usually mondays …one 10×10 which is random in the week and a silly 5×5 with old schoolmates where we all feel like cruyff maradona and zidanne and just mess around really without keeping score ( we lose count ..12-12, 13-14 who cares..). i find that the times when i forget to smoke i play like de jong while when under the influence i approach the game like xavi and pirlo …always going for the outrageous while trying to keep an arsenalesque methodology and wengerball authority… this bloke from alsace region has ruinned

    ” it seems ok to be rude to Arsene and players but you have to be polite to ignorant ill informed half wits”

    yep i never go that either george …. bang on about facilitating it too….

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  20. Well thanks a lot Steww. I just finished trolling NewsNow, anxious for every scrap of news about our Arsenal, only for you to confirm the futility and emptiness without proper football. On top of that you remind me of how inept I was as player. After being a hapless goal-keeper, my fledgling youth club team tried to hide me away playing right back (they must have thought it was akin to fine-leg as we were very much into cricket those days) only to find my ineptitude was only matched by my enthusiasm. But despite the many whippings we suffered, like you, I would never trade any of that for the lifelong memories and character-molding experiences.

    As for making me feel guilty about not doing some work around the house, I don’t think I can easily forgive you. The only saving grace is your excellent post.

    PS; Thank goodness George is pedantic and relentless. He has gotten the best out of you.

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  21. steww
    you have a gift! this was so funny and so wise.

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  22. And as for “ooh ah reg’s bar” – ha ha ha ha!

    Reminds me of what drew me into football and stopped me turning my nose up at it (yes, I know) – the wit and humour of the supporters.

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  23. I have enjoyed everyone’s stories today it’s been great. Also thank you for the kind words but George deserves the praise, I had an hour of blank screenitis before he came to the rescue and deserves all the credit for suggesting this post.
    Take a bow , the Sensei of Soul.

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  24. ps Sorry Shotta!

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  25. I just came across this .Imagine ? They were just young lads sat around playing music they had come up with .Donovan and Dylan.In the same fucking room,Just having a sing song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc6HcA6kEJc

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  26. Was going to say, didn’t I see you on Twitter yesterday whining about having nothing to write? Please. If this is “having nothing to write about”, more writers should try it. Simply brilliant, and an enjoyable read this morning over my coffee.

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  27. Brilliant George. Just don’t read the fuckwitted comments. Why would people want to turn that into a competition?

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  28. Alabama – I try not to whine too much!

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  29. Dylan is a force of nature and Donovan is hopelessly under valued.
    I love them both.Why would you argue who is the best?

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  30. You could tell it was international weekend at Hamlet. Bit of booing from the audience when a soliloquy broke down

    Bloke thrown out kept shouting “But I’ve paid my money and I have a right to my opinion “

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  31. a5 he would probably left 15 minutes early anyway

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  32. Good topic to talk about Steww.

    This paragraph is tangential to your topic: It is important to enjoy sports. I used to play cricket on the streets where I grew up. Then when i started playing for the univeristy 3rds, i started taking things too seriously and my game completely suffered. I would not score runs, I would just stay at the crease, defending, too afraid to get out. That ruined my university cricket career. I could have had it so differently as i used to play well against first team bowlers in the nets and in practise matches.

    Regarding playing football, in my school days, 30 of us used to play football in a dusty pitch with no one having any idea of their role. There used to be two or three better players who tried to do everything. There would usually be a melee with 10 of us around the ball at any time. I would rarely get a touch of the ball and when i did, the “star” players would demand that you pass the ball to them. I still have a small bump in my leg from the time one of my classmates tried to win the ball from me. Still, it was really good fun.

    Then there were the times, my brother and I used to play football with a tennis ball in his flat and with a desk as the goal. I would try to curve the ball into the top corner as it was the only place he couldnt defend.

    It has been quite a while since I played again. Nowadays, i see myself as a creative midfielder and I practise by passing stones through the legs of my dogs when I walk them. When i miss and it hits their legs, they give me a look which makes me stop for the day. I want and hope to start playing some local football soon.

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  33. I want my Bard back

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  34. Stew. This may surprise you coming from this source but I have a story that will give you context for our Gooner passion also. I used to manage by son’s football team from Under 7’s to U 9s. I must have started him off okay by naming him Liam as he turned out to have a sweet left foot. Our second end of season tour was at Haven Holiday caravan park in Hastings. Mini football, matched Saturday and Sunday with a final Sunday early afternoon. Liam was skipper of the U8s and they won the tournament. I had no voice left at all from shouting instructions for 2 days. I watched my lad lift a huge trophy above his head and cried with joy. I then went to the bar and watched Arsenal lose at Highbury to Leeds and thereby throw away their chance of winning the league. I watched, we lost and I realised that I actually did not care so much. Seeing Liam left the cup having scored so many goals over the weekend meant more and gave Arsenal context. For years as he got better and his football took me all over the place Arsenal took a back seat. They became my second football passion for many years.

    Ps I wrote a good blog today as well and it was all positive. LOL

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  35. Dave, that was the game Harry Kewell scored in wasn’t it?, I was in the east lower,a particularly gutting day that one-thanks for reminding me!

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  36. He was outstanding in his first few seasons in the job and I will always have the utmost respect for the man

    But tell me – what has he accomplished for the past 400 seasons ? Enough is enough

    #WilliamOut

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  37. a5 I thought you were going to comment on gonnerdaves style of management and his obvious bias towards one player

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  38. goonerdave – lovely stuff thank you.

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  39. The thing I learned about football and/or life if that with youngsters it is no use doing your nut as a coach even though, as happens every game, they do something excruciating – my son and his team were on the end of some eye watering score lines when they started – getting over the half way line even at one on the many kick off s was a major plus

    Relentlessly positive, keep them optimistic, praise and build on every good thing they do manage

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  40. Oh and #DaveOut

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  41. I don’t care if dave has had offers from barca, real, Bayern, chelski, paris st ,juve, both milans hes still not good enough for our club !

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  42. I was a pretty decent player, but football was nowhere near as developed here as it is now. I used to play at CB and CM. I became ambidextrous when I turned 22. Too old to accomplish anything of note. When people in the states listen to me talk about football they swear I grew up in a football nation in Europe or South America. I love the crap out of this sport.

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  43. Hahaha. Nice one STEWW. .
    Most hilarious of all the goal keeper on acid trying to saw a shot that hadn’t been kicked yet. Freaking classic. Glad you’re still enjoying your passion and diversion with football. Best freaking game in the world mate.
    Would not mind watching a good international game once in a while but for sure the real Love is club football and the club is THE ARSENAL.
    COYG.
    come home safe and in one piece please.
    UP THE. GUNNNNNSSSSSS!!!!!!!

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