Aidan Isherwood from KAFA Football guests on FOOTBLOGBALL
So Street Football is no more.
As a definitely no more than average player myself, when I read about how truly great players developed by juggling tennis balls all the way to school, or playing matches up and down steps in Italian backstreets, I sometimes think how they would probably have been the best around in almost any environment. But on the other hand, they might not have played as much and they might not have learnt so much about creating space and time and solving footballing problems in tight areas at high speed, if their football had been limited to going through controlled drills at an organized practice twice a week. If that is all children get, then no chance of getting the 10 000 hours in! Let alone the quality practice.
Anyway, in a practical sense, if you are trying to give children the best possible football experience today, maybe it’s worth trying to identify the key ingredients of Street Football and then take them and use them.
As I remember:
Everyone who comes plays — no substitutes.
All abilities play in the same game — but of course, evenly matched to make sure the game is good.
Whatever ages turn up, play — as above, sensibly mixed.
Likewise re girls and boys — maybe not so often historically, but the ones who wanted to play, played.
No referee — decisions are based on consensus; any cheating or to much arguing ruins the game, so it disappears.
No coaches — apart from instructions from older to younger, and more experienced to less experienced.
Rules adjusted when necessary to keep the game good — players swapped if one team winning too easy; goalposts moved, etc.
The aim is to have a good game.
Not easy to set up in 21st Century age-, sex- and ability-segregated children’s football clubs? And disbanding all modern clubs and hoping kids get on with it themselves could — when you think of current winter weather, lack of places to play and the ease of playing computer games — backfire.
Paul Cooper has spoken about this sort of thing for quite a few years. And about the football and social benefits of trying to recreate these environments within existing football clubs. Sadly, his wonderful Give Us Back Our Game campaign and movement is currently on ice awaiting new funding — last I heard.
I went to the first GUBOG workshop in 2007 and was inspired. At KAFA Fun Football in Stockholm we have created a place children, young people and adults come to play football. They mix, to an extent, with different ages and definitely with different abilities. They smile, and they actually get better at football too. But that is not the overriding aim.