The 7 types of goal in Sunday League football (and how to celebrate them)
The goals showcased on Sunday afternoon in your average pub league may not boast the pedigree of top-level professional football. But what they lack in quality, they more than make up for in character.
The depth and breadth in variety of how 22 players – yes, we’re including goalkeepers –can shunt and skew the ball into the net, with intention or not, is a modern-day tapestry of sporting mediocrity.
Like nature’s finest creations, one can’t help but wonder what new and baffling style of goal remains undiscovered in the wilds of park football. What we do know is that every other strike worth mentioning falls into one of these seven categories. Witness them here.
1. The ‘Accidental Barcelona’
Playing Sunday League football really brings home how difficult it is to string more than two passes together. Admittedly, it’s more often the fault of a tufty or sodden pitch than it is your accuracy or touch – though that is fairly regularly a factor – but it’s truly tough. It requires the abilities, positioning and decision-making of several of your mates to align within seconds of each other, without a member of the opposition rudely sticking a foot in. When you do complete that move, after nine or ten passes with a collected finish into the bottom corner, it’s really one to savour.
How to celebrate: Arrogantly. To over-celebrate a goal of unrivalled quality is to admit that it was an utter fluke. Instead, just high-five your team-mates and take a gentle jog back to your half.
2. The ‘scrambler’
A goalmouth scramble is a magnificent thing to behold at any level of football. Yes, it happens in the professional game, but Sunday League is its true habitat. This is where calamity and beauty collide head-on, creating a sort of anarchic ballet of ineptitudes. In a good goalmouth scramble, nobody really knows where the ball is. It can hit the post, the bar, a head, a shin, and an armpit on the way into the net. It can cause everyone in the penalty area to fall over. Onlookers hold their breath, only exhaling when the ball finally drops to someone who is, by chance, physically arranged in the right direction to ping it in at last. A good goalmouth scramble should last at least 20 seconds for full effect – and the more headers the better, frankly.
How to celebrate: Fervently. All nine of you really fought for this.
3. The ‘screamer’
The phrase “he just saw glory” is only really applied in the negative, usually when a player erroneously thinks they can score a spectacular goal. Of course, every dog has its day. A true screamer is hit from at least six yards outside of the area and surprises everyone on the pitch, not least the striker. It’s like the adult equivalent of pulling off a passable reenactment of a WWF finisher move on your little brother. This is the stuff dreams are made of and the very substance of glory.
How to celebrate: Assuredly. You know, like you meant it.
4. The ‘outfield own goal’
For all the charm of Sunday League, there’s no denying that the calibre of performer on display can fall short. It generally comes down to speed – everything is just that little bit slower. That most own goals happen so slowly makes them all the more agonising. That slice, that mis-pass, that shinner: you had time to stop it happening, you just couldn’t.
How to celebrate: Amusedly. If you’re the attacking team, have a laugh. If you’re the unfortunate own-goalscorer, you’d best get the first round in after the game.
5. The ‘goalie o.g.’
Let’s get serious for a minute. Goalkeepers’ own goals deserve their own category because they explicitly betray their entire purpose. When defending, calamity is an occupational hazard – a biproduct of being under pressure from the attacking team. It calls for leadership in the form of a confident and reliable goalie. But when they are the instigators of chaos – gifting the ball to an attacker via a lame goal kick, or simply just throwing it in their own net, – well, that’s inexcusable.
How to celebrate: Just don’t.
6. The ‘Header’
Have you ever actually tried to head a ball from a corner or cross? It’s bloomin’ hard. Attacking a corner (yes, you’re supposed to head the ball down, we all know that) is rumoured to be the inspiration behind the opening couplet of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem If. And indeed, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you deserve all the plaudits coming to you. Such success also relies on a teammate being able to actually take a corner or free kick. Another of Sunday league’s rarest skills.
How to celebrate: Communally. With everyone; your team, theirs, subs, managers, passers-by, dogs, the lot.
7. The ‘free-kick’
There’s a huge disparity between the number of Sunday League players who think they ought to take free-kicks, and those who actually can take free-kicks. Therefore, most dead-ball situations will end up floating gently over the bar, or being wellied into the midships of some poor sap in the wall. Very occasionally, the ball will find its way into the net – usually by accident, but sometimes on purpose. When it’s the latter, it’s well worth celebrating.
How to celebrate: Explosively. Turn 180 degrees away from the goal and run in a zig-zag for a distance of 3.2 miles, screaming joyfully all the way.