Putting the emphasis on ball skills rather than winning at all costs

Broomhill Festival 5 A Side Tournament: Charlie Flann (left) and Pav Khaira (both 9) practice headers watched by team mates from Birkdale Blazers and manager Jav Hefferan
Broomhill Festival 5 A Side Tournament: Charlie Flann (left) and Pav Khaira (both 9) practice headers watched by team mates from Birkdale Blazers and manager Jav Hefferan

In a week when the football giants of Norway put paid to the 2013 hopes of the young men with ambitions to step into the sponsored football boots of our national team at the next World Cup, (if England actually make it past Montenegro, that is), the future football generations of southern Sheffield had their eyes on their own moments of glory: the return of the Broomhill Festival five-a-side football tournament.

“Our ethos is that this is a fun tournament,” said organiser Clive Langman, words not used in the professional game since the days of pig bladders, one suspects.

“It’s for groups of friends, a fun competition for players of all abilities.”

Forty-five teams of players aged from five to 15 were taking part, watched by 500 or more supporters, many of them non-footballing family members applauding their tiny sons heartily for such skills as kicking the ball in the right direction.

(Football for five to six-year-olds is a great team sport, with every outfield player involved all the time, chasing the ball round the pitch like a swarm of Nike-branded bees).

Clive (and many closely involved in the sport) have noted at first hand some of the faults in junior football: “Too much competition,” he said, somewhat controversially.

“A young footballer may only touch the ball 20 times in an 11-a-side match, and that doesn’t develop their skills. And you should be praising young players for what they do well, not standing on the sideline screaming: ‘Get stuck in!’”

Clive believes that young players enjoy working on their skills in small groups, and such training for primary age children would be good for the future of the game, as well as more fun for the kids, a view shared by many in the local junior leagues.

Clive runs the Nether Green football teams, whose ‘have fun’ rather than ‘win at all costs’ ethos goes down well with the wider Broomhill Festival community focus.

Nether Green FC stepped in to run the tournament, which had run for over 30 years until last year’s cancellation due to lack of volunteers. More than 28 volunteer officials, registrars and caterers were needed for last Sunday’s tournament, as well as the unpaid managers, nutritionists and team psychologists for each six-player squad.

The tournament is designed as a child-friendly start to the festival, which runs until June 23 and includes, music, drama, art, history and literature a well as five a side football, all raising money for the festival charities: StopGap Sheffield, Phoenix Association, St Andrew’s Child Contact Centre and the Jubilee Food Bank.

All income from the football tournament held at Sheffield University’s Goodwin Centre went to the charities, and Clive hoped the day would raise at least £500.

“The teams taking part are predominately from S10 and S11, so this is very much a local football festival,” said Clive.

The final of the ten-year-old section was very much a S10/11 affair with two teams of Nether Green players split into ‘Arctic Funkies’ and ‘S10 Eagles’ for the day, and a well known local solicitor donning a baseball umpire kit to take up the Howard Webb role.

The 0-0 scoreline after full time was addressed by a democratic poll of players and supporters, and six minutes of extra time ensued, with a dramatic goal for the Arctic Funkies moments before the final whistle.

“Well concentrated,” commended a proud mother, perhaps not a regular at Bramall Lane or Hillsborough. “Very well played boys,” eulogised another.

Even the referee was applauded off the pitch.