Craig Salmon’s Soapbox – put your Ipads away, it’s time to play

There has been a decline in player participation in adult amateur football in recent times
There has been a decline in player participation in adult amateur football in recent times

There’s a little cul-de-sac just a stone’s throw from where my old man grew up, which always makes him reminisce about the ‘good old days’.

In between rows and rows of terraced housing, there is a little quiet road, which has railings enclosing a children’s nursery on one side and a red brick factory on the other.

It’s hardly the most picturesque spot in the world – and has changed slightly over the years,but for my dad it is the scene of many happy childhood memories.

He and his mates whiled away the hours at night, and during the weekends, playing their favourite game – football.

There would be a big match every evening as two teams of around 20 – maybe more, sometimes less – played for the bragging rights the following day at school.

Goodness knows how they kept count, but double digit scorelines were the norm before they were all called in for bedtime as it began to go dark.

Even if the hours my dad spent kicking a football as a child were not enough to see him make a living as a professional player it did however lay the foundation stone behind a lifelong love of the game. He went on to play amateur football every Saturday afternoon up until his mid-30s, before going on to become a referee, manager and in later years a local league official.

His love of the game – and sport in general – had a major influence on me and I reckon my generation is the last one to regularly play street soccer to keep ourselves entertained.

I will always remember myself and my mates playing on a quiet road outside our homes, always keeping an eye out for an oncoming car which would cause a temporary halt to our game as we all scuttled off to the nearby pavement.

Once the vehicle passed our match reconvened until the next motor came along.

If we were feeling adventurous, we would head off to the nearby park and organise a game there.

Unfortunately, the days of packs of kids all informally enjoying a game of football – like my dad and I used to do – appear to me be a much rarer occurrence.

There is certainly more things to keep children occupied nowadays – what with Xboxes, ipads, the internet, multi-room multi-channel television subscriptions. But the fact that many youngsters don’t play out as much these days is, in my eyes, one of the major reasons behind the decline in participation levels in adult amateur football.

When I first started playing adult football at the age of 16, the club which I joined boasted seven teams – now it has disbanded.

Over the last few years, local leagues across the country have seen the number of its membership clubs diminish.

To be fair, Preston bucks the trend slightly, as the Lancashire Sunday League continues to thrive as does the city’s referees’ society – but for how long?

It’s high time we took the joysticks out of our kids hands and gave them a ball instead.