And you never know where a kickabout down the park might lead. Going for a game can be the beginning of something extraordinary. It’s where talent is spotted. England star Raheem Sterling was picked out playing games in Cassiobury Park in Watford, displaying the skills that he’d learnt playing street football in Jamaica. It wouldn’t be long before he was playing in the World Cup.
Ballon d’Or winner, Real Madrid galáctico and Croatia legend Luka Modrić is another player who belongs to the any-pitch-will-do club. He taught himself to play football in a car park, spending countless hours on a makeshift pitch next to the hotel in which he and his family lived. Algeria’s Premier League champion Riyad Mahrez honed his skills playing on the concrete pitches of Sarcelles banlieue in Paris.
Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who attributes his world-beating skills to the highly competitive boyhood games he played on the streets and in the parks of his home island of Madeira. He says that playing in small areas helped him improve his close control technique. It also helped him win a museum full of trophies, medals and awards.
So, where can you go for a kick around, to glide like Sterling, step over like Cristiano or mesmerise like Messi?
In London, there’s always somewhere you can get a game of footy, come rain or shine, at Hyde Park, Holland Park, Regent’s Park and Victoria Park. These parks have a range of different-sized pitches that you can use; some are free, some you have to pay to play on. There is also Hackney Marshes: take a look at this. It is park football.
In Manchester, check out the football facilities at Wythenshawe Park, Walton Park, Longford Park and Stamford Park. In Leeds, you can kick a ball around at Roundhay Park, Middleton Park, Golden Acre Park and Beckett Park.
Going further north, there are ball-playing spaces of various kinds at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, Petershill Park in Glasgow, Strathaven Park in Avondale and King’s Park in Sterling.
So, where should you go for a game?
Well, there are good parks in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and elsewhere, but the best one, the one that you should go to, is your local park. Grass, artificial turf, concrete, it doesn’t matter. Grab a ball, get down there, pop-up a goal or two and get a game going.