Junior football – It’s not the FA Barclays Premier League…


… but it sometimes feels like it when you’re following the trials and tribulations of your 10-year old son’s team as it progresses up the local FA Junior Alliance League U10’s league. Written off as non-starters at the beginning of the season the boys are now challenging for a top-3 berth. They’ve played some good football along the way but all the issues that are evident in the senior, elite leagues are evident at this the most grass-roots of grass-roots levels – the performance of female match officials, foul play, crowd problems – you name it’s there.

This week the boys suffered the worst defeat of their season to date, which could put their ambitions in doubt. They were outplayed by a team who definitely wanted the win. On a rain-soaked muddy pitch (conditions under which the game should probably have been called off anyway) they all but gave up after the first goal went in. It’s something when a team loses and the best player on the pitch is the goalkeeper. They were beaten by poor  coaching – they were told the game was an easy one and when they went behind their complacency got the better of them.

However, at least two of the five goals were scored as a result of poor refereeing – and it’s impossible to criticise a female ref these days. A throw in was awarded, but the player still made his pass after the whistle. A defender, playing to the whistle, raises his hand to keep the ball from going out of play behind the goal to avoid wasting time. The referee then blows for a penalty – handball in the area – ignoring the fact that she had awarded a throw in seconds before. 2-0.

Shortly afterwards the referee impedes a defender, preventing him from getting to the ball ahead of one of the opposing forwards. He shoots, he scores. 3-0.

And so it went on. I know it’s just a kids match but it is important that we instil a sense of fair play into kids that could become the future of the sport. And in officials who should have the courage to not only stand by their decisions but to recognise when they have made serious mistakes. But it’s important to resist shouting abuse. The officials themselves are young teenagers and are volunteering their time to referee these games.

Still, number one son was delighted with his goal keeping performance. He saved at least four other good shots as the opposition got behind his non-existent defence – often with odds of three against one. The problem comes post match getting a bunch of moody 10 year olds to shake hands.

Spectating parents can also be a problem. It isn’t the Premiership, and the kids are only 9 and 10 years old. Shouting encouragement is one thing, but abuse is something else and can be damaging to developing confidence. There are obvious frustrations but ‘at the end of the day’ it should be fun. http://www.respectfootballclub.com/.

Watch Ray Winstone’s  video. I see one of these almost every Saturday. I find that most post-match blues can be cured by listening and encouraging and being the bringer of a bar of chocolate and a couple of packs of Match Attax.

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