Move over Sepp, the hippies are coming!
A giant ball, a circular football pitch and sit-ups instead of a coin toss? What is this madness?
Picture the scene: the house of FIFA falls in on itself and Sepp Blatter is replaced in the hot seat by a bunch of hippies. How might the game change?
Girls and boys would be allowed to play on the same team, for a start. Physical contact would be limited to a gentle shoulder barge, opposing teams would wear different-coloured ribbons, kits would be a mishmash of tracksuit bottoms and curry stained T-shirts, the pitch round and you’d be allowed to pick up the ball (which is half a metre high) and chuck it in the net. It would, in other words, be an aberration. It would be Circle Rules football: the deformed bastard child of the beautiful game being played in a park in Bristol every Thursday.
“The rules are simple, really,” says David Ottridge, a former web designer who organises this weekly kickabout. “There’s a single set of goalposts in the middle of a circle. The goals don’t have nets, so you can score from either end by kicking the ball or picking it up and throwing it in.”
That’s not all: the classic pre-match coin toss has been replaced by something altogether more absurd. “We decide who kicks in a particular end by a ‘down-up’,” explains Ottridge. “This is where one player from each team lies on the floor; the first to stand up gets to choose which way they want to kick. But if it’s raining and the grass is wet, we use rock-paper-scissors.”
Witness football’s most complicated offside trap
Swapping headbands at full-time is optional
Circle Rules football was born in 2006 when New York University drama student Greg Manley set out to devise a new sport for his senior independent project (a thesis for actors). Manley had played football, basketball and American football while growing up and after he visited Igfest, a Bristol games festival earlier in 2011, a Facebook group was formed to spread the word. And it’s now firmly established at the forefront of Bristol’s alternative sports scene. Ottridge has bigger plans though. “I truly believe it wouldn’t be out of place at the Olympics if it ever gained the popularity needed. Its accessibility is one thing separating it from other sports. You don’t have to be very good to play; you just need enthusiasm, a few friends and a sense of fun.” Plus an oversized ball, a rickety goal and a slightly shambling amateur vibe, of course.
Sic tures pand
“And he’s just scored with a flaming coconut!” Some of football’s more suspect offspring make Circle Rules football look almost orthodox
Football meets volleyball, gymnastics and the Brazilian martial arts capoeira, all played out on a giant bouncy castle with trampolines. Big in Brazil, the ‘pitch’ is split in two halves divided by a volleyball net. The aim is simple: pummel the ball into the floor on the opponents side using hand smashes, volleys and overhead kicks – all while trying not to fall off the bouncy castle and breaking your neck.
Mainly played in South East Asia, this crazy form of football does what it says on the flaming tin. The ball, made of coconut fibre and covered in diesel, is set alight before an almost traditional game kicks off, minus goalies and throw-ins. There are no free-kicks either, presumably as no one’s mad enough to go in the wall.
Originating in Japan, teams of six buffoons decked in Where’s Wally stripes attempt to play with binoculars attached to their faces, while the ref, dressed as a rabbit, mocks them. A bit like trying to play with a ball right next to your face and with no peripheral vision, games descend into air-kicks and pratfalls.
FourFourTwo.com October 2011 25