Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (1974)
To listen to the sound of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds, playing fields and village greens is to listen to the fleeting traces of a rich sounding culture. The iterative ritual of marking out the pitch, cutting the grass, fixing nets to goalposts with cable ties and driving corner flags into the earth. Then the distinctive practices of on-pitch communication; the whistle; the sound of football boot on ball, of the ball as it lands; the struck crack of the crossbar; studs compressing the soil, brushing the grass, slicing through the turf. Grassroots football is a game of noise, silence, presence, absence, activity, inactivity. The sounding comes in waves — building, receding. Pitches stand empty for days then startle into exuberant sound-making action. Football is present. Football is happening. A substitution is made; the ball takes a wild deflection from a corner — disappears into a garden — and is followed by a player who climbs over a fence and into undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; the goalkeeper argues with his left-back about how many players should be in the wall; the central defender argues with the ref about the infringement; the assistant referee checks his phone for messages. There’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or lost in their own thoughts. Then the game crackles into life with a high tackle; a controversial decision; a header that slaps against the post; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who, instead, ends up kicking the dugout. The final whistle. The everyday sounds of the parish recreation ground, playing field and village green return. Football is absent. Football isn’t happening.
from Get Rid! SARU 2018 ISBN 978-1-9996176-1-5