Hackney Marshes And The Quest For Football’s Grass Roots

It takes different strokes to move the world, and Mike Bayly has found a little peace with the game through getting involved in what has come to be known as “grass-roots” football. What, though, does this mean in the twenty-first century and how can this be reconciled with a game that is now in its post-industrial stage? Mike went to a match played on a pitch overlooking the spiritual home of Sunday League football in England, Hackney Marshes, to taste the very bottom rung of senior football to try and find out a little more. One of football’s most endearing qualities is its ability to constantly polarise opinion. The vastly changing landscape of the national game has left consensus more fractured than ever, as supporters are increasingly forced to re-evaluate their relationship with, and understanding of, a pastime that borders on obsession. Nowhere is this schism more prevalent than in football’s curious terminology – a lexical minefield of cliché, idiom and neology, where managers imbued with bouncebackability step up to the plate and throw hats into rings. There are also those terms that so are so ubiquitous as to be almost meaningless. ‘Community’ for example, is a lingering paradox, plastered over stadium names and in programme notes whilst paying scant deference to its true roots or meaning. It is in these confusing and dichotomous times that the phrase ‘grass...

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