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Five-a-Side is a more complete game of football

Tuesday 24th January 2017
Football, there's so many variations of the world's favourite sport – but a trusty five-a-side is arguably more of a comprehensive form of the game than the traditional eleven-a-side we watch every week.

I've been playing five-a-side with my friends at a kick-about level for the best part of three years now, on a weekly basis. Throughout my time playing with them I've noticed that five players per team offers considerable traits that the conventional game cannot.
The most prominent are the roles of each player. Assuming that you're using one of the players as a goalkeeper, there's not much you can play with formation wise with just four outfield players. At the level we play at, formations don't tend to happen. It is every player's responsibility to defend and attack; which, over time, makes you into a complete player. Yes, that guy who only turns up to goal hang – you have to ask him to get back and defend, but he can do it; albeit when asked.

Whilst the contemporary footballer is no doubt versatile, if you asked Diego Costa to come back and defend – he'd probably not that thrilled to do so, and might not actually be good at doing so. Unlike big Paul, every Tuesday he's running back down the line as soon the opposition take the ball and defends as passionately as he was just attacking. It's the five-a-side game which has crafted its players into a complete player. If you play without a recognised goalkeeper too, then there's that to consider as well. Everyone shares the workload and tries to keep a clean sheet. Often to a very poor standard.

The variation also mentally strengthens the participants. In the traditional eleven-on-eleven game, a goal radically changes the game. Players can either go into their shells after conceding a goal or truly come out and make a fist of a game. Five-a-side players, however, understand the speed of their game, that goals come and go. This creates a mental steel within their ranks, un-phased by the odd goal. That said if a team are ten goals down – that can have an adverse effect on the side.

The absolution is of five-a-side of football is also generated by its surroundings; whilst it may vary by pitch and site – the usual pitch/game works without corners, goal kicks and throw-ins. This creates a total game area, where no lines are observed – the ball will always stay in play. This means that dead-ball situations are few and far between and there's generally more time to just play. The only time the game drastically drops is when the keeper makes a save and redistributes back out.

Whilst again, a variation depending on who's rules you are abiding by – offside doesn't tend to happen either. Van Basten wants to abolish it in the standardised game, which may well help a lot of five-a-side players transition into some echelons of (semi)-professional football. With fewer restrictions on creative play, this adds to the amount of goal scoring opportunities. This also means that defenders can't play entrapment-based roles and try to catch out a passing play. They have to get close and attempt to win the ball. Altogether a more football-on-football engagement.

The Premier League is often praised for its speed and fast pace; especially when compared to the defensively slower leagues like Serie A. By that concept, a good quality five-a-side league would be the most watched competition ever. The speed of two determined five-a-side teams is extremely rapid. It, however, it is not enough to imitate Usain Bolt, it's all about your reactions. The ability to switch from offence to defence; at a pin drop or vice-versa is often the route to scoring. Again, this is a credit to the versatility of the five-a-side player.

Whilst the TV cameras aren't following this variation of football just yet, the sport has certainly been documented for its rising popularity. This total football approach allows its players to develop and hone these specific skills as better players. Although, don't expect them to useful when taking a corner kick!
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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