Seeing someone as a hero is all in the eye of the beholder.
For me, anyone giving their time to ensure the smooth running of a League or Club is a hero, and for that statement I will not accept an argument saying otherwise.
In grassroots football they come in many roles, from a League Committee member to Managers planning training and games every day of the week to the players who turn up rain or snow and put the nets up, pay their subs and are happy to get their 15 minute game time.
It’s hard to single out individual people within this article, and I’m not sure I will, because there are so many legends out there on a Sunday morning it would be unfair of me and my poor memory to miss anyone out.
Grassroots football lives and dies by the work of volunteers who carry out their role because they love the game. Unbelievably some people think they don’t. But everyone does. That moany League Treasurer chases you to pay that fine, because that £10 pays for a cup final winners medal for someone.
The Referee Secretary moans at their referee’s panel for not being tight with their admin, because they’ve spent 12 hours in the last week making sure every team has a referee for their game. Your gaffer wants you to let them know your availability for a game because even though it's “only Sunday football” to you, to them a win on a Sunday represents a whole week of stress and planning.
The person who washes your kit wants you turn your socks round the right way, because they want you to look the bollocks when you step out on the pitch for your game. I’ll stop short of including referees into this list, as a paid participant of the game, the cash for some is the reason they are there.
But for others, like me, I love being involved in the game. I’d referee for a lower match fee, if I can stick some petrol in my car and treat myself to a 4 pack of the black stuff to go with my Sunday roast, I’m happy.
The £40 you pay your referee for some represents their shopping for the week or the way they get to work each day.
Photographers may be paid for their work, but the hours spent at the game followed by the editing and issuing after means they are heroes. Helping teams raise the image of grassroots football and adding to the brilliant graphics and website teams have developed over the last few years.
Team administrators, making sure meetings are attended, team sheets are filled out, registrations of players are added to FA Full Time so your team can play are heroes. They make sure the players are at the right place at the right time for you, they greet the referee before a game and offer them a cup of tea and they shake the hand of the opposition win, lose or draw.
Because that is what grassroots football is all about.
Every team has a person who does the crap no one else wants to do, they have to have them, otherwise those jobs just don’t get done and the club will fold without it. At the beginning of this article I thought long and hard about individual people who enhance my experience within my games. But literally every single person does. As above, someone offering you a cup of tea before the game and showing you to your changing room can put a smile on your face.
Having a chat with a manager before the game about how they are and how the season has been going, is brilliant. Having great banter with players during the game is the best. Handshakes and pats on the back after a game all round makes it all seem worth it.
Shout out to every single person out there doing what they do for grassroots football. Shout out to all the videographers slaving over their video editing software all week to get something out for other people to watch.
Shout out to all the content producers working another 40 hours a week over and above their day job to shine a light on the football we all love the most. If you are reading this article, it means you love grassroots football. Thank you to you for showing an interest in the purest form of football. The version of the game that needs your interest the most.
The version of the game where every player who grew up in this country and made it in the big leagues has played.
Thank you for going along to a ground and buying a rubbish cup of coffee and questionable bacon sandwich from the tea hut. Because without that clubs can’t run.
We are grassroots football, everyone who takes part. The most inclusive, accepting and beautiful community of people there is.
This year has been rubbish. But the spirit will never die, we are all brothers and sisters in the family.
The Grassroots Football Family.