Parklife

Every Sunday morning, through the mist of breath that smells of last nights drink and Deep Heat on park pitches the length of Britain, a strange, almost tribal dance takes place. It isn’t a universal ritual for the amateur footballers of the country, but it is one that most of us have gone through at some point in our careers. A rite of passage for the budding Wayne Rooneys amongst us. It is, of course, putting up the nets, and it is deceptively difficult. If you walk past a public pitch during the week and there are no nets up on the goals, the pitches look strangely denuded, but this only lasts until about nine o’clock on Sunday mornings. All leagues, no matter how inconsequential, insist on the goals having nets on them for matches, and you can spot how well run a club is by how quickly effectively they put the nets up. Some clubs are fearsomely well organised. They have pegs and a mallet to anchor the net down at the back. They have a chair or a ladder to attach it in the corners, and they have velcro strips to attach it to the crossbar where (inevitably) the hooks had been torn away by years of having them ripped hastily and occasionally angrily down after matches, as impatient players and officials rush to get to the...

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