There is perhaps nothing more ingenious than the way we’ve transformed spaces like our void decks into our own venue for a World Cup Final.
Interestingly, the many other places where we played soccer as kids in Singapore have required us to conjure different tactics, take up challenges from rival soccer groups, and of course constantly invent new rules to aid in our quest for footballing glory.
Perhaps the most tricky of all venues, the void deck presented many challenges in the form of different sized pillars at each block, the potential to break the fluorescent lights hanging above, and of course the chance that we might just hurt someone walking by.
It was also a good idea to always have an escape route in case a grouchy neighbour started chasing you around.
Any grass patch
Also known as the unlimited boundary, grass patches across the island worked best to accommodate a large group of kids and was often the site for chaotic scenes where 40 kids chased after a single ball.
Contentious decisions were also called as to whether the ball went out of play, or if hitting the self-created goalposts (usually school bags, slippers or anything you could find nearby) counted as a goal or not.
It was thus not uncommon to hear words like ‘cheater cheater’ amongst school kids all the time.
Street Soccer Cages
Found mainly in neighbourhood estates, the predecessor to the now widely available ‘cages’ were created to better consolidate the potentially dangerous act of soccer activities.
Aside from having to get used to the ball being constantly in play, there was also the question of the extremely wide goalpost, which meant that the old-school tactic of having the fattest boy in school as the goalkeeper would not really work out here.
Ingenuity at its best, basketball courts have perhaps the biggest impact on the way we played soccer, as it meant that you had to aim at a more rugby styled high and narrow goalpost, rather then the conventional short and wide one.
No proper throw ins, the need for good close control and the unluckiness in marking a very tall player, basketball court soccer turned out especially for me to be the most entertaining place I’ve ever played soccer at.
Then there is always home, probably the first place we ever played soccer. Somehow it could still get pretty tiring even though we were running in circles. Parents also soon discovered the collateral damage aftermath and decided that void decks would at least be a better choice.
I do think it’s safe to say that while soccer brought us many injuries and dirty uniforms for our parents to wash, it also definitely helped us find out who our real friends are (people who pass the ball) versus the frauds (dribblers).
We also pushed the durability of our Bata Shoes to the max, learnt to deal with difficult opponents, and left a personal mark on police records thanks to complaints from an unknown neighbour.
As the popularity of Astro Turfs and Futsal/Cage Soccer increases, there definitely are fewer people (adults included) who frequent the places I’ve mentioned. Yet for most of us, the memories of the many unique places we’ve played soccer as kids will definitely stay with us.