Theo Hobson

The joy of middle-aged football


Theo Hobson has narrated this article for you to listen to.

I can tell when my life’s going OK. My stray thoughts are not about what a loser I am but about what a terrible footballer I am. Why didn’t I shoot when I had that chance? Why did I pass to the opposition? And, oh dear, I wonder how Diego’s knee is?

For almost a decade I’ve been playing football on Saturday mornings in a local park in London. For the first few years I was a fair-weather visitor, shy about it. I’m not much of a joiner and I don’t have much chat about the transfer window, so I felt awkward and almost stopped going. A couple of others were middle-aged and rusty like me, so they probably didn’t really want another old guy getting in the way. But I gradually felt that they didn’t mind me being there, that I was a valid part of the mix.

It’s a couple of steps up from jumpers for goalposts. It’s plastic self-assembly goalposts for goalposts and fluorescent bibs for one of the teams. One of the old guys, Keith, brings the kit. Recently he asked everyone for a fiver for some new stuff. That’s all I’ve ever paid in ten years.

There’s a pool of about 40 men (in the early days a brave young woman sometimes played). You sign up by WhatsApp during the week and there’s room for about 26 people. If there are more than 20, we make three teams, which is nice in the summer as it gives one a breather. Only once or twice have the requisite 16 failed to enroll and only once do I remember it being full when I wanted to play.

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