Notes from West London · Sport

A year’s worth of 5-a-side

Almost exactly a year ago, in this piece, I wrote about playing football with people my own age again for the first time in over a decade. I am happy to report that this is still a regular part of my week. I have played something close to 5-a-side football at least once every month since then, sometimes as often as three times in a week.

The make-up of the teams has been anywhere from 4 v 4 to 7 v 7, each permutation offering its own distinct flavour. Straightforward 5 v 5 is best but there have been times when we couldn’t even gather the minimum of 8 players that we need and the games have been cancelled. I wrote about this last April, when I started playing on Wednesdays as well as (or sometimes instead of) Fridays.

Back in the summer, determined to make sure that the games wouldn’t be cancelled, I enlisted the services of a couple of school dads. One of them (whose daughter was in my son’s class at primary school) is based in Hong Kong so was only here for a few weeks. The other one (whose daughter was in my daughter’s class at primary school) had a posting abroad for a few years but is now back, and keen to play. He hasn’t missed a Friday night game since he joined us in July.

Some of the regulars are guys I have known for decades, London Irish like me, attending the same Catholic church for much of our lives. There have been times when everyone on my team was Catholic, all but one of them with at least a bit of Irish in them. The exception was someone with Italian ancestry, someone we have known since our children were at nursery with his daughter. She’s all grown up and planning to go to university next year and has been working in the bar at the Parish Centre in recent weeks.

The bar was closed in 2020, during lockdown. We weren’t sure whether it would reopen but since the summer has been open for a few hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. Initially it was only serving bottled beers but draught beer has been available again since October, £4 for a pint of Guinness, even less for London Pride. It’s not quite back to its old ways (no Tayto crisps or Nash’s Red Lemonade for example) but it has been a welcome venue for post-match drinks. Football and beer: that’s my Friday night, most weeks.


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