‘Aaaaaargh’: Noise of frustration made by a player who has just over hit a pass, or put a shot wide. Usually exclaimed by the player in the Barcelona Messi shirt, it is done to suggest that the previous passage of play was deeply uncharacteristic, and that his shirt doesn’t usually look this ironic.
‘Back’: With the ball at your feet, your natural inclination will be to take it on a bending run, leaving floundering defenders in your wake, and riffling it into the top corner. Teammates with a clearer view of how the game’s developing may suggest a more pragmatic approach: a humbling shifting of momentum and a dreary rolled pass backwards. The even more hurtful suggestion of ‘back to keeper’ is usually followed up with the base covering caveat ‘if you need it’. The subtext: you do.
Celebrating: Strictly forbidden in the five a side arena. The psychology of this works on a similar basis to the idea that suggests people will think you have done more sexually if you talk about it less. This should not be a new experience for you, and the proper way to acknowledge a goal is to trudge back with your eyes downward, periodically raising your head to display your unsmiling face. Some squinting is permissible, but not so much that it becomes excessive.
Defending: Easier to feign than attacking, and such is the chaotic pace of the game, sticking a lethargic foot out as an opposition player approaches you may actually see you emerge with possession. No sliding tackles allowed, as if you were planning on one anyway.
Edge of the box: A starkly defined area of the court, players being forbidden from entering the box at the risk of conceding a penalty, or, judging by the desperate lengths some go to in order to avoid it, opening the gates of hell, letting loose the evil powers from within and becoming the subject of an oft regurgitated internet urban legend. Drawn as a semi circle, which means defenders have to make daintily curved runs around it, watching their steps like a shot putter and generally feeling a bit silly.
Five: The number of players meant to be on each side- a nice conceit but one usually thrown into turmoil when Spuggsy bring his little brother with him, and Jamie’s mates from last week show up again. Finding space becomes a problem, with angry 50-50 clashes breaking out all over the place, and that’s just queuing for a drink at the vending machine beforehand. The game itself is less a fast paced exercise in short passing and ball control, and more a mass of flailing limbs and sharp, elbowed points. Teammates tackle each other, strangers- referring to each other solely through generic terms like ‘mate’ and ‘bud’- find themselves paired up together in central defence. It’s as near an experience to playing for West Ham United you’re going to get for twenty five quid, a booking fee and a deposit. The fact that the game only lasts sixty minutes, and not ninety, means it’s the closest you’re going to get to storming out of Upton Park early too.
Goalkeeper: Outside of Nike’s Zoom T-7 indoor trainers, and a pair of ankle guards, the most desirable piece of equipment on the five a side court is a goalkeeper- you should probably be able to find a decent second hand one on Ebay and it’s certainly a worthwhile investment. Sans Goalkeeper, your team will be forced to operate a hectically organised rolling system, each member taking it in stroppy turns to mind nets, only freed from responsibility on the concession of a goal. Such a system is pervious to corruption, of course, and every goal will be greeted with dark suspicion and accusatory glances from team mates not altogether convinced that you aren’t in devious cahoots with the opposition to limit your time on the centre provided crash mats.
Head Height: A rule designed to encourage ball control and fast play, although usually pettily used to punish a player who deflects the ball somewhere above the knee area. One problem with the head height rule is nobody is ever sure which head to use as the benchmark height, nor what would happen should the player selected choose to perform a cunning handstand with an opposition striker bearing down on goal. Appealing for enforcement of the rule is generally regarded as bad form and should be left to your team’s captain. (I.E, the member of your team who remembered to book the court this week.)
Read more of Chris’ work at his blog Partially Deflated