Friday, 6 August 2010

Football's parallel universe

With the Premier League fast approaching, much media coverage revolves around the frenzied dealings of the transfer market. And although a plucky performance on a soggy pitch in Pontcanna is unlikely to attract a multi-million bid from Manchester City, amateurs in the parks league can rejoice in the fact that they too can move from club to club like an expensive professional.

While there are some who loyally stick with one team for years, those of a more fickle ilk can forge a journeying career with only the briefest of stays at any number of sides. Pre-season training is nearing its conclusion, and players across the leagues are ready to showcase their talent to a host of potential new clubs.

There are numerous stages for such displays, whether it is the hallowed turf of Trelai Park or Cwrt-Y-Vil’s home ground Llandough Fields. Changing rooms are infused with the smell of cigarettes and Deep Heat muscle rub, and the pitches themselves are a marshland of miss-kicks and the odd moment of brilliance.

This contrast is the primary appeal of parks football; a player is as likely to fire a match-winning volley as he is to be kicked into orbit by an overweight, middle-aged centre-back. Parks football is also intrinsically attractive for fans of the sport because it often seems to operate in a parallel universe to the professional game.

In the shadow of the Cardiff City Stadium, for example, lies a ground belonging to a different footballing sphere, Grange Albion’s Coronation Park. While 20,000 or so flock to see Cardiff compete for a place in the Premier League, a handful of fans walking across Sloper Road stop by to watch 22 less celebrated players vie for the bragging rights of an alternative top flight: the Cardiff and District Premier Division.

I’ve plied my trade with parks sides of varying quality, and although professionals now often seem to be younger than me, I still haven’t entirely abandoned my childhood ambition of playing in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger, however, has not yet been in contact.

As written for Guardian Cardiff

No comments: