As the world sport, and the second most attended and participated sport after fishing across the UK, football (soccer) provides a great opportunity to keep fit, stay healthy and enjoy social activities with like-minded people, not just until you reach your 30s, but well into your 40s and 50s, if you take care.
Not everyone can reach the standards required to play for your local professional team and earn tens of thousands of pounds every week, but the many missed opportunities for better players (in their own minds) to continue to play five or seven a side football, when they are past their sell by date for active 11 a side football against 18-year-old players, provides the opportunity to continue to participate with compatible individuals and teams.
Avoiding contact sports
One of the greatest advantages of playing five or seven a side football within small confined stadiums is the ability to avoid the majority of hard crunching tackles that is the highlight of 11 a side football. The majority of players will need to go to work the day after a competitive small sided game and although some tackles are part and parcel of the way the match is played, many players prefer to move and pass the ball to gain an opportunity to score rather than think they have the individual dribbling talent of Ryan Giggs or Ronaldo.
A second advantage of small sided football is where some of the rules are changed to suit the size of the football pitch and the type of game being played. Although five a side football is much quicker than 11 a side, because offside is no longer one of the laws of the game, players can curb their enthusiasm for running throughout the entire match by hanging around in specific zones on the pitch which reduces the effort and requirements of players moving into their 40s or 50s.
A full body workout
While it can be argued that playing football does not provide the full body workout that you would associate with an hour in the gym, it does provide an extremely hectic 10 to 40 minutes when you will probably cover more miles than you would playing 11 a side matches.
The passion that players have to play football in any format provides them with the ability to continue to play the game well into the middle section of their lives, when it is clear that they are not going to match the pace of 11 a side matches against younger and fitter players.
The experience that an older player brings to the game can often be proved in small sided football as the younger players will turn around aimlessly trying to perform tricks they’ve seen on television across the weekend, whereas the knowledge gained by players who have considered giving up the game for 10 years or more, is in knowing where to be at the right time and also understanding when it’s a waste of time running back to try and tackle a player you will never reach.
The only difficulty found by many small sided game footballers is to balance the ability to replace those lost fluids correctly after a match with healthy drinks and that it is not a competition to get through as many beers as possible as soon as the game ends, but that does provide the social environment to right the mistakes of the game just completed. (Image: Mick Baker).
Chris Jenkinson writes for 5-a-side.org, home of the London 5-a-side football leagues.