Commentary

The best place for impromptu soccer

I’m not sure exactly how it started, but I have come to realize what my favorite place for impromptu soccer playing or for just a fun kickaround is.

For the longest time, I could never find impromptu pickup soccer games. I haven’t played organized soccer for a long time, but I still love kicking the ball around when I can. I make sure I always have a ball in my room, so I can take it wherever I think I can get some fun in. But if I don’t have a ball, where should I go?

Those places vary but usually playgrounds work well. I remember one early February morning in Marseille seeing a group of two teams kicking the ball around for fun. A playground similar to the size of a basketball court. It was roughly eleven years, so my memory of that evening is a bit fuzzy, but I think that I gave the others (mostly relatively youngish high school students) the impression I had some skill with my feet.

Four years later in Fukuoka, Japan, another idea for seeking a good place for impromptu soccer – popped into my head: a park. I remember a group of eight (four women and four men) kicking around a ball on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember anyone being particularly skillful, but it was fun watching them. I wanted to play, but I didn’t know how I should ask in Japan.

So I figured out the best way to ask to join in: Beg (or act like you’re begging. If you’re not begging, look super interested when you’re watching the group and more often than that, you’ll be invited to play). I did, and some friendly people let me join in the fun. I don’t think we wowed anyone, but a pickup soccer game made that May Sunday more enjoyable because I found some people to chat with (who fortunately for me, could speak English to have a worthwhile conversation).

Anyway, going back to the first paragraph of this column, it has dawned on me that there is one obvious place to go to if I want to play a pickup game or just start a fun kick around: the beach! I usually have plenty of space to juggle the ball (and impress people by managing a decent a number of touches without the ball hitting the sand). The beach is a great place for sporty fun as a lot of guys obviously want to show off how fit they are (even if they have ignored any sense of exercise for 8-9 months) so that’s why you see a lot of Carson Wentz imitations (or volleyball games) at just about every crowded beach. More often than not, I’ll see at least one group of folks kicking around a ball, and they’re open to others joining in the party – even if it’s just to simply pass the ball around.

Now that I think of it, my most recent beach jaunt may have been my most fun soccer experience on the beach. I met a couple of dudes from Massachusetts who were making a weekend trip to Wildwood and took interest in my soccer ball. Because there were three of us, we couldn’t engage in any sort of game. Well, I mean a game in which teams look like they’re actually competing against each other. But one of them introduced me to foot volley on the beach and I took turns playing against each of them one-on-one. I won my share – and I lost my share. The important thing was I got my competitive juices flowing with a soccer ball.

That wasn’t the first time soccer with “strangers” has broken out after bringing a ball to the beach. However, foot volley on the beach was a first and hopefully, a habit I’ve picked up.

 

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