Out of left field: Five-a-side Football

For both the messy and the Messi among your friends

Trinity has always prided itself on the importance it places on sports and societies on campus. And while many people come into college with lots of sporting experience and prowess, it can often be difficult to find a place in the sporting community where there is no pressure. Between learning new rules or straining to improve your skills, there can be an element of social stigma around looking silly while playing sports. Not so with Trinity Five-a-side Football. This group offers the perfect opportunity to go back in time and revel in the “jumpers for goalposts” attitude of your younger years. 

Not a club in its own right, Trinity Five-a-side is a social sport initiative from the Sports Centre. It is open to all students, undergraduates and postgraduates alike, and aims to provide a means through which students can partake in non-serious but competitive sports with their friends. Third year Political Science and Geography student, Jack O’Brien, is the current co-ordinator and believes that five-a-side offers something for everyone. “I worked at the Sports Centre for two summers as a volunteer and when the opportunity arose to apply for five-a-side co-ordinator I jumped at it. I have been a huge football fan my entire life but equally an awful player. These two traits are perfect for the aspiring five a side player. I wanted to help improve an activity with huge potential and appeal to those who loved sport but were not gifted enough or didn’t have enough time to join an official team.”

“The bottom eight teams get entered into a wooden spoon competition vying the dubious honour of being the worst team in the group.”

While the teams may not be overly serious, that is not to say that it’s unpopular by any stretch of the imagination. In Michaelmas term, more teams were playing five-a-side than ever before, with 40 teams taking part in the league. “It was randomly divided up into four divisions, from which the best two would play in the quarter finals,” O’Brien explains. And while winning is obviously the goal, unfortunately not all five-a-side teams are created equal. “There are some teams who absolutely rip apart the league every semester but, more often than not, teams who are just there to run about end up having more fun, so it’s a win-win in that sense.” The bottom eight teams get entered into a wooden spoon competition vying the dubious honour of being the worst team in the group. But O’Brien sees the silver lining in the cup: “The message being that they are as welcome and as crucial to the league as the eight best.” 

One of the key elements of five-a-side is that there’s a special emphasis on socialising. All sports teams, big and small, create communities around their teams but when the stress is taken out of the competition, there is much more time for chatting and making friends. O’Brien comments: “For me, and many others who play in the league, five-a-side serves as an opportunity to unwind with your mates, rediscover your inner child and get a healthy bit of exercise midst mountains of college work. Many who play in it, myself included, cite the matches as the best part of their entire college week.” Those friendships live both on and off the pitch, with many games followed by a coffee and Eamonn Dunphy levels of post match analysis or a trip to the sauna to prepare for the next gruelling encounter. Another feather in the cap of five-a-side is that it takes place in Trinity’s own grandstand arena, the idyllic Botany Bay. O’Brien notes that “Botany Bay is a beautiful venue for five a side as well, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom for all of spring and the old, impressive, stone buildings enclosing it.”

While the name might suggest that you need to turn up with an entourage of your own, O’Brien ensures that there are many different ways to get involved. “Usually teams are from courses as their timetables are similar which makes it easy to coordinate for themselves. However, there are many society teams as well. Trinity VDP have one or two, the Student Cafe have a fantastic side and the University Times also has a team.” And for the people out there whose pleas for footballing glory fall on their friends’ deaf ears? “People can get in touch with myself through the Sports Centre website and I can try to create teams of individuals or assign players to other people’s teams. It is very important to not be dissuaded from playing five a side by the fact that none of your friends want to play.”

“Some sides have cheerleaders bellowing chants from the side of the pitch. Others have got jerseys with their names printed on the back or have made mini-documentaries about their team’s journey.”

With five-a-side proving more popular than ever before, why do we see people gravitating towards it rather than its 11-a-side counterpart? O’Brien states: “The fact that five-a-side is far less serious than 11-a-side means that you end up having far more of a laugh than one would if it were serious and competitive. It’s still the same sport but the atmosphere is different.” And more than that, the rules are slightly different or rather, they’re partially absent. “There are no referees, or VAR thank God, as of yet in Botany Bay so teams have to resolve their differences squarely on the pitch,” jokes O’Brien “Five-a-side enables terrible players, such as myself, to occasionally feel like Lionel Messi, allowing the rediscovery of love for the game. It is also much less about ability than your effort, motivation and craic you bring to your team. Some sides have cheerleaders bellowing chants from the side of the pitch. Others have got jerseys with their names printed on the back or have made mini-documentaries about their team’s journey.”

People looking to get involved would want to act fast as those team slots fill up at a rate of knots. “I advise applying as early as possible in order to avoid disappointment, we had to turn away ten teams last semester, despite taking on ten more than we ever have had. The commitment is just one game a week. Occasionally, there will be two if postponed games need to be rescheduled, but generally teams will have enough players so that you don’t have to go if you are too busy.” Applications for the new league are now open and can be done through the Sports Centre website or by grabbing a form from their front desk. Now that the Christmas holidays are over and the evenings are getting longer, there is no better time to dust off that old pair of Nikes, grab your retro Ireland jersey and head over to Bernabeu de Botany Bay.

Conor Doyle

Conor Doyle is the current Sport Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister Law student.