1. Setting up the goal.
Can be made of anything, preferably clothing or school bags. When the ball comes into contact with the post, a consensus must be reached on whether it was a goal, wide or ‘in off’ [the post].
2. Cross bar
The exact height varies from goal to goal, decided on a case by case basis. Whether the goalie could have conceivably reached the shot is a useful guideline.
2. Picking teams.
There are two common methods for picking the sides.
The owner of the ball and the best player take turns picking until the worst player is left (feeling a bit like they want to cry).
2. Picking numbers
One player to turn their back while the others are allocated numbers which are then used to randomly* assign teams.
*cheating via coughs, nods or hidden hand gestures is rife in the game.
3. Who you’re going to ‘be’.
Each player must pick a professional to channel for the course of the game.
4. New ball rule.
A new ball cannot be played – or even bounced – on concrete for a minimum of two weeks when first purchased (to hold off this happening for as long as possible).
Any player is entitled to give a running commentary on their own performance, usually when on a solo dribble. E.g. He takes on one, he takes on two, he shoots! – Ooooooh, it’s just wide!
6. Wembley Singles / Doubles
When there are not enough players to make up two teams, individuals or pairs play against each other shooting at one goal. As always, the worst player goes in nets.
Scottish footballer Alex James, Wembley, 1932, Getty
7. Headers and Volleys.
A game of advanced technique that involves keeping the ball within set parameters using only a header or a volley (one player at a time). Rules can be softened to allow half-volleys.
8. Spot / Donkey / other
Subject to regional varieties, each player is given a letter as a penalty for failing in the aims of game (often involving hitting a specific tree or wall).
Once ‘donkey’ (e.g.) has been reached, that player is out (and a donkey).
9. Rush keeper / First man back.
When everyone refuses to play in nets, there are two options.
1. Rush keeper
Enables goalies to switch temporarily to an outfield position during the match, including going on solo runs and scoring goals.
2. First man back
Dictates that any outfield play can become the goalkeeper, depending on who gets back to the goal first when defending an attack.
10. No goal mooching / blasting.
Further safe guards for nervous ‘keepers can be enforced.
1. No mooching / poaching
A crude variation of the offside rule, this is to prevent lazy players or ‘glory hunters’ from hanging around the opposition goal waiting for a Lineker-style tap in.
2. No blasting
This rule prevents anyone from kicking the ball with excessive force within a few feet of the goalmouth.
11. Play on.
A free pass to continue playing even when the ball’s been kicked out, usually evoked by goalkeepers who can’t be bothered to retrieve the ball.
12. Break in play.
The game is only paused when the ball is accidentally kicked into a garden or under a car.
13. Getting the ball back.
If the ball does accidentally go into a stranger’s garden, asking for it back requires two players – the one who kicked it over in the first place and a loyal friend.
In a fast-paced game, abbreviated instructions are essential.
‘Next goal the winner’ means the next team to score wins, and is almost always evoked at the end of a game by the side losing 9-2.
17. Alternative balls.
Tennis balls, basket balls and empty cans or bottles are acceptable alternatives when a proper football is not available.
18. End of match.
The game only ends when either:
1. It’s too dark to see
2. Everyone is too tired to continue, or
3. The owner of the ball gets upset and goes home.
19. No ref.
No referee – or other adult – is required to enforce the above rules. After all, you’re all mates, no matter what the final score.