Sunday league football is the term used in Britain to describe the amateur football played on parks around the country, typically on a Sunday. The term comes from a time when domestic professional and National Leagues matches all used to take place on a Saturday, before the FA attempted to eradicate away supporters by introducing early and late kick-offs, midweek games and worst of all: the Friday evening kickoff. Sunday league is also known as park football, pub leagues and the Scottish Premier League.
Differences From Professional Football
Sunday league differs from the football played in the Football League and the National League system in the following ways:
- All players are amateur - in every sense of the word.
- There are no stadia. Fans typically stand around along the sidelines or on the pitch itself, often leading to comedic misunderstandings about throw-ins, crowd intervention and serious injuries. Players typically get changed at home or in their cars.
- The referee is not an FA trained representative from a neutral area. They're usually a family member of the home team who 'just happened to be walking their dog in the park that day.' In the absence of any male spectators at all (women are forbidden to take any part in Sunday League other than the carving of the half-time oranges and burning of the post match Sunday roast) the teams will often agree to 'ref a half each.' This introduces a whole new level of strategy to the game. The first ref must balance their need to cheat and make biased calls in the first-half against the fact they'll probably be playing against the team they just enraged in the second-half, where their ref, like Arsene Wenger, is 'unlikely to see' any late challenges or accidental elbows to the face.
- The linesmen typically stand on the same side of the pitch, next to where the players' wives or local young jailbait totty on bikes have gathered, rather than following the defending team's last man. Arguably this affects their ability to judge offside decisions, but given nobody actually understands the offside rule anyway, they can justify virtually any decision by claiming the 'fat number 14 re-entered at the second-phase and the ginger-lad wasn't interfering with play.'
- There are no transfers.
- Yellow cards are never used in Sunday League. Very occasionally a player will get a straight red, but this will require the kind of action that would result in a criminal record if it wasn't in the name of football. Examples include: a two footed slide tackle on a player who hasn't touched the ball in 5 minutes; punching more than two of the other team's players in a single incident; punching the referee; throwing the corner flag like a javelin through the heart of the other team's captain.
- The pitch will often have a significant slope. While FA rules do allow the pitch to have a camber for drainage, on many pitches the top of one team's goal is below the bottom of the other team's or the corner is in a bunker.
- The team is picked by the captain rather than a manager. This means the captain will always be picked, regardless of their ability, injuries or sobriety.
- The players genuinely care whether their team wins and will run their grossly unfit bodies ragged for 90 minutes, regardless of how many pints they sank last night, to ensure that happens.
Anatomy of a Sunday League Team
Most Sunday League teams follow more or less the same formula. All teams will play a 4-4-2, unless they are either playing for goal difference or only have strikers, when they will play 4-3-3 or possibly 3-5-2. Players are put into position depending on which stereotype they fall into most clearly.
The captaincy is determined either by who can arrange to hire the pitch every other Sunday for the cheapest rate or whoever owns the kit. The kit is usually a horrid plastic sweaty shirt or a fake replica kit of some obscure foreign team that the captain picked up at $40 for the lot in Thailand last summer. The captain will always be outrageously over-enthusiastic and will treat every game like it's the FA Vase final. The captain handles team selection, which is a difficult balance of picking the best team, whilst also ensuring that all their drinking buddies get to play.
Defenders are all No-Nonsense Players, who are typically the biggest, strongest and hardest-drinking players in the side. Defenders will hoof the ball clear at every opportunity or put the ball excessively far into touch or neighboring allotments whenever put under any pressure, while shouting, "if in doubt!" Defenders love sliding tackles and often let strikers run past them on purpose just so they can go for a reducer. Defenders hate and are the arch-nemesis of the teenager and the foreigner.
Jamie Carragher and Tony Adams would've made a fine Sunday League central defensive partnership.
Every Sunday League team typically includes at least one teenager, who is the over-pressured son of one of the players. Teenagers are often smashed about in Sunday League because they're smaller than everyone else and too timid to retaliate. However, they're often much faster and fitter than everyone else on the pitch due to the fact they still have to do P.E lessons in school and their arteries aren't as severely clogged with chips and alcohol yet.
Occasionally a Spanish or Italian family will move into a small village somewhere in Britain and at some point the father will be introduced to the local football team where he will timidly admit to 'having played a little' back home and be invited to come along next Sunday. Sure enough, the foreigner will show up and after foregoing the pre-match lagers for his pasta salad, engage in a bizarre warm-up routine. He will stroll onto the pitch wearing red/gold/white boots, a hair-band and gloves, cross himself and then proceed to make a mockery of the opposition for the next 90 minutes, using mysterious foreign tricks like running with the ball and step-overs. The foreigner was often a wing-back or free-role back in his native land, but will always be played right/left-midd in England.
Like Pelé in the 60's, the opposition defenders will eventually grow tired of trying to win the ball and simply resort to reducers against the foreigner. Either that or he'll sprain his ankle on the rabbit holes in the corner of the pitch and be out for the season.
The ex-professional is typically far too good for Sunday League football, having been part of the Spurs or West Ham Academy, until cruelly at the age of 19, spraining his cruciate ligaments going for a header or getting caught stealing an XBox from his local Cash And Carry. Rather than settle for a career playing in the lower-tiers of the Football League, they instead do a Sports Science degree and go on to become personal trainers. Ex-professionals will stand out in park football because of their composure on the ball and the way that when they get bored, they go on runs through the whole opposition team and lob the keeper, before breaking down with knee pain and having to miss the next 4 matches while they have yet more surgery.
The Lazy Bastard
The lazy bastard is usually fat, balding, slow and nearing the end of their 'playing-career'. The lazy bastard will never run for the ball or try to tackle another player, but will suddenly become incredibly animated the minute they look like receiving the ball. They are inevitably made strikers to try and minimize the damage they can inflict through their sloth ways. They are also inevitably either the captain or his best friend.
Dimitar Berbatov is a professional example of the lazy bastard.
Other Forms of Sunday League
Sunday League football is occasionally played on days other than Sunday, typically by bankers and other City professionals during the week in competitions with ridiculous names such as Power League. In addition to violating the spirit of the game by playing on the wrong day, they also often play on immaculate 3G pitches surrounded by cages so the ball can never go too far into touch. This is because they're too lazy and mean spirited to go fetch the ball out of an allotment and also because the cage prevents the general public being able to assault the thieving money-grabbing gits.
In New Zealand the 'Sunday League' games take place on a Saturday. In every city, big and small, overweight, aging men can be seen out of breath, struggling in vain to catch an errant pass. Usually the games take place on a huge park, sharing space with equally as pathetic rugby players. The football players will openly be mocked by the dozen or so rugby fans, especially when the ball is punted onto a rugby field, where an irate oval ball loving prick will kick the ball into a nearby creek and call the football players 'fags.'
Most of the football players once starred for their local school and harbored ambitions of becoming the 'next Ian Rush.' Once out of school their football careers dwindled and beer became the focus of their existence. Despite their lack of fitness and skill, they still become angered at a younger team mate for a bad pass, because he 'hasn't paid his dues.' Thus their overbearing nature causes frightened younger players to say 'sorry guys' every time he stuffs something up. Yet when the 'veteran' does the same thing it is okay.
Matches take place in winter, usually in front of two or three people. Random spectators will mock the efforts of the useless wankers, causing sideline brawls. Scores are usually low, as there is rarely genuine goalscoring ability on either team. Players have been known to wear jeans and trainers, drinking beer between injury breaks. This was evident in 1992 when Takaro played Massey 5th XI at Monrad Park on a dismal July afternoon. Goals do not have nets, thus causing controversy when a long range goal is scored.
Despite all of this the fat farts show up week after week, oblivious to their heightened levels of uselessness. The 'glory days' will never die for them.