From extravagant goal celebrations to being faster than your five-year-old, here are nine reasons why we embrace the grass-roots pleasures of the garden football kickabout.
1. The momentary lack of media
While playing garden football, the modern parent might allow themselves a satisfied smile: this is the one time in your children's tech-centric lives, after all, that has nothing to do with the red button, the App Store or Justin Fletcher. That's until you realise they've stolen your iPhone, secretly filmed you getting the ball in your crotch, and uploaded the footage to YouTube.
2. The relaxed atmosphere
Adult football is just so life-and-death serious, from a bulgy-veined John Terry hissing abuse at his Chelsea teammates, to the ageing sloggers who weep and rage over their team's relegation from the Sunday league. So it's refreshing to see just how blissfully happy everyone looks during a garden kickabout – and comforting to know that if you do miss a penalty, nobody's going to be that cross.
3. The double-digit scores
Anyone who's sat through a 0-0 snore-draw between Carlisle United and Luton Town will agree that pro football can have miserly scorelines. In the garden, though, it's raining goals, because the goalie is usually a butter-fingered pre-schooler, and the full-back keeps breaking formation to wee on the daffodils. At last, the final whistle goes on a 58-47 thriller.
4. The illusion that you're really good
Play football with people your own age and you'll quickly be exposed as a wheezing, club-footed, lolling-tongued donkey, with all the coordination of a Primark mannequin. Play against a gang of pint-sized juveniles, though, and you suddenly feel like Pelé in his dizzying Sixties prime, skipping around toddlers, out-pacing five-year-olds and slotting home a screamer while the goalkeeper eats dirt. If only your school PE teacher could see you now...
5. That it's free (sort of)
All you need is a ball, two jumpers for goalposts, a patch of turf and some enthusiastic children – which works out pretty thrifty compared to the eye-watering £97 ticket price you'll pay to watch Arsenal at home. That said, you will also have to bear the associated costs of raising kids, recently calculated at almost £150,000. Swings and roundabouts, we suppose.
6. The ball hitting your mother-in-law
You didn't plan it, of course (you're not that accurate). And it's not like it actually hurt (it's only a Finding Nemo beach ball). Still, there's an undeniable satisfaction and poetic justice about the ball clonking your mother-in-law on the head after she's just been rude about your scatter cushions. Take that.
7.The extravagant goal celebrations
While Premier League players settle for punching the air or saluting the home crowd, your kids are free to go bonkers in the back garden. And so, after bagging a twenty-yard belter, your shy five-year-old will dance a lambada with the dog and bomb into the paddling pool.
8. The pitch invasions
In the real world of football, a pitch invasion will typically involve a pendulous streaker or an angry Glaswegian drunk. In your garden, it's more likely to be a wayward labrador puppy, which will show off a bit of fancy paw-work before cocking its leg against the goalpost. Less amusingly, it might be your next-door neighbour, storming round for the eighth time that afternoon and threatening to pop your ball with a fish-fork if it comes over his fence again.
9. The yummy half-time snacks
Fine dining isn't the forte of the football stadium – hence the grim half-time tradition of pasties and tea that appears to have been dredged from a ditch. Play outside on a glorious summer's day, though, and you may be called to a halt by your partner, who has brought out thirst quenching drinks and a selection of homemade snacks. Of course, your ball skills might go a little downhill after the third glass of Pinot Grigio. But then, that's all part of the fun, too...
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