A group of children have been seen playing what’s been dubbed ‘street soccer’ in the western suburbs of Sydney. A number of witnesses from the Bossley Park area in Sydney’s west said they saw children playing what they referred to as a ‘five v five’ game of football, but rather than using traditional stadia facilities, the children chose to play in a small alleyway.
Former Socceroos coach Rale Rasic told FMF it’s the first time street soccer has been spotted in Australia since 1988.
“I have not heard of kids playing football in the streets since Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton were said to have used bins for goals in the street opposite Marconi Stadium. But they were freaks, part of the Golden Generation, not just any average kids.
“When I heard there were kids playing street soccer in this day and age, I was astounded. You hear of these things happening in other countries, but especially after Destiny came out on the PS4 last year, you’d never imagine them happening in your own backyard.”
When FMF reached out to Australian football historian Harold Rogers to dig into previous sightings of street soccer, Rogers presented a set of pictures taken in 1988 that appear to feature Kewell, Emerton and other members of the Socceroos’ Golden Generation playing football using rubbish bins and tracksuit jackets.
The first picture shows Kewell at 11-years-old curling a shot from outside what would today be dubbed ‘the area’ straight into a paperbark tree being used as a goalpost. The next picture shows an agitated nine-year-old Brett Emerton issuing what appears to be a gesture to start a ‘stacks on’ with other children, while another shows a double-pony-tailed Kewell at the bottom of a stacks-on pile, with 16-year-old gangly Zeljko “Spider” Kalac and a magnificently-mulleted Mark Schwarzer giving Kewell ‘dead legs’.
Rogers told FMF the pictures, ‘prove the existence of street soccer prior to 2015, in an era before the streamlined youth development programs and state-of-the-art facilities of today make such ad-hoc competitions irrelevant.’
Witnesses in Bossley Park say that while the group of children, aged between nine and 12, appeared to be enjoying themselves, the lack of adequate stadium facilities and training structure showed that they were suffering without the regimented routine of a FFA National Curriculum program.
“The kids kept on passing to each other and none of them were shooting, a far cry from what you see in top-flight Australian football today,” said one witness.
“Back in my day we would be shooting at goals all day, for hours at a time, but these kids did nothing but argue about whether the wing players had to cut inside when the fullbacks overlapped, which didn’t even matter because all they did was pass the ball to each other across their defensive line.”
When Football Federation Australia was contacted for a response, a spokesperson said they would look into the matter, even so far as to bring street soccer under the umbrella of the recently-released Whole Of Football Plan.