Updated: Apr 18
Over four years ago, my friend, who used to run a football group with guys from church, asked me if I can take care of it. And this is how it started.
How does outreach work through football?
We can have various aims. We can scream upfront that we are Christians, or we can be lukewarm our whole life and say what we believe in only when questioned.
You may want to do social events in your church or invite people to the Alpha course, or pray with people before a game.
My choice is to be a good Christian and disciple.
Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
Salt and Light
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
And I think that it is working. Those who are not Christian in our group know what I stand for. We get to know each other. We have dinners together, go to the pub and share lives.
I am clear that if they have questions, they can ask, and I will be happy to answer them.
Some of the guys stop coming to play football because of different reasons. Some became friends and even after they stopped playing football with us, we are still in touch. Some asked more questions, came to church and become Christians over time.
I passed, the church was a bridge placed halfway between the world and God.
Nowadays, the world got so far away from God, that we need to build bridges between the world and a church.
Below are the rules that I gave to guys, just so that we are all on the same page.
"To make sure that everybody is happy, we have some rules.
Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no."
When you say that you will come, come. If you are not sure about Friday, tell me that you can not go and somebody else will have a chance.
Love Your Enemies. Don't do "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth". If somebody crosses you, show them respect, talk to them and forgive.
Don't judge how others play and don't criticise them out loud.
If you have something to say, say it to them. Respectfully.
If that doesn't work or you don't feel comfortable doing that. Talk to me.
We have to pay for the pitch, footballs, and bibs. So we need to share the cost.
One game costs £3. You can pay £10 for four games upfront
If you can not pay for some reason, talk to me. We all have different circumstances.
If you see that somebody struggles, help them. If you can not, talk to me.
Apart from that:
No metal stoots on shoes.
No slide tackles.
If you kick the ball out, bring it back."
We have tried a couple of different football pitches over the last couple of years. Because profit is not a goal, therefore my focus was on covering costs. We hire a 3G pitch from the local sports centre. It's excellent quality, with lights when it gets darker, and everybody appreciates it, but it comes with a high price and long term contract commitment. Pitch hire takes almost 80% of the cost.
Bibs, washing of the bibs and footballs, take the remaining 20% of the cost.
We share a cost among everybody and a flat £3 per game is collected.
When somebody wants to pay for four games upfront, then I ask for £10.
The essential element is that, people who for some reason, can not afford this (unemployment, asylum seekers, or other cases).
I also never bother too much about chasing people. It is not worth the effort and mental energy to chase everybody. If somebody doesn't pay two times, I talk with them. If there are good reasons, then I take a hit. If there are not and it happens again, then we need to part ways.
Time - I find that Friday between 6 pm and 9 pm is the best. Monday would be another good day. Weekends tend to be a bit busy for everybody.
Place - local colleges, and high schools, often have perfect sports grounds and are underused. So contact those first. Sports centres or leisure centres are an ideal choice too.
Space - The pitch that we use is a third of the full pitch. 8o-side works very well on it. Any more and it will be overcrowded. When playing 6o-side, we bring goals a bit closer to each other and shorten the pitch. 3G AstroTurf is the best in every weather. Make sure that the environment is clear, especially of any items like glass etc.
Communication - I run a Whatsaap group with about 50 guys. Every week I send one message saying that it is time to book a spot for the coming game "Football Friday at 7 pm. Who is in?". Then people answer with "in". I keep a limit on 16 guys and no more.
It is good to overbook a little bit though, up to 17. one guy always drops last minute.
Recruiting - Students are often good people to bring friends. Other people rarely do it. I found that Gumtree (Craigslist) and local community Facebook groups work very well in recruiting new people.
Card Reader - Some people smile when they see a card reader on the football pitch, but it's very helpful. Every time I would have somebody apologise because they didn't have cash. A contactless card reader solved the problem.
Footballs - Always 2. If one ball pops during a game, you have some spare. Once I brought four balls, and people didn't pay attention to them as much. By the end of the game, I had two balls left. The other 2 were kicked out and lost. In a year, I usually have to buy 2-3 balls to replace old ones. I try to buy quality balls but not to be too crazy about it. Low-quality balls are, well, low quality.
Bibs - It is just so much easier to have bibs. I would not play football again without them.
I have about 40 bibs. That allows me to do washing a bit less often and rotate sets. Yellow bibs attract mosquitos in summer so avoid those. A lot of people will come with red thirsts from some clubs, so red bibs are good.
Sports bag - to carry all the items. Any cheap bag will do.
Whistle - Nothing big. I use it only once during a game. At the end to let guys know that we are finishing :)
Bumbag - my best friend, to carry money, whistle and card Reader. Not needed, but very helpful.
Pump - I was using a little hand pump for a long time, but a bike pump like the one below is so much better. I will never come back to the small hand pumps. Remember to get some needles for balls as well.
Card Reader - For a couple of years, no I use Izettle. Lately, more and more often, I have had a chance to play with or use Sumup, which is a great alternative.