Jumpers for Goalposts
or, how to play football in the playground or car park



Ideally a FIFA approved size five leather football. A slightly under-inflated tarmac-scratched one would be traditional, but is not required. Although i have outlined a few substitutes below, I really don't recommend anything other than a proper football. The lost enjoyment does not balance out the saving of a few quid at your local sports shop. The ball is the only part of the equipment that is really important. Any of the others can be improvised with little impact on the fun of playing.

If a proper leather football cannot be found, one of those cheap plastic ones can be substituted but this will completely change the game; Plastic footballs curve in the opposite way than expected, have a tendency to stop dead in mid-air when kicked hard and are much affected by the wind.

If really desperate you could use a coke-can, a ball of parcel tape or something similar. The ball must be spherical, however. Rugby balls or American Footballs are absolutely no good unless you want to run in circles and damage your foot. Hard balls like cricket balls are also out; although, on tarmac a tennis ball can sometimes work well.


If you have access to an actual goal (or goals) -- on a local pitch for example -- then this is ideal. If not then there are a range of traditional improvisations:

If you are intending to use two goals then it is helpful if they are of a similar size and if they roughly face each other. If the goal has no height (such as when you are using items of clothing) then it is generally assumed that the crossbar is at the height of the goalkeeper's highest reach.

The Rules

There are many games that can quickly be set up where each player is playing for himself. Most of these games can be modified to play in pairs or even larger teams but usually if there is enough players to start building teams, then a proper match would be better anyway.

Common Rules

The basic rules of football, with very few exceptions, apply to all these games, too. This includes the rules about handball, fouling, etc. Some rules, however, need some adjustment to the situation.

The Goalkeeper

These games have one goal, and one goalkeeper. The goalkeeper's role is special in that he is the only neutral player. The keeper will begin with the ball and start the game by kicking or throwing it out to the players. Suggestions of unfair distribution of the ball can be quietened if the keeper faces the goal (with his back to the players) and throws the ball over his or her head.


It's pretty unlikely that anyone in their right mind will want to be a referee. There are three basic ways around this problem. The first is just to forget about it; you're all friends and it's only a game after all. Any obvious cheating can be sorted out by general consensus. The other is to use the goalkeeper as referee. He's perfectly placed to do this as he is theoretically neutral in the game.


The offside rule makes no sense in all-against-all games since there is no passing. In variations where there are teams it is still unworkable due to odd playing arena shapes and sizes and the poor view of the referee. A reasonable substitution for offside is to play a no goalhanging rule. This simply means that players cannot hang about in the goal-area waiting for stray balls or rebounds. What actually constitutes goalhanging is a subjective view. Another solution to this problem is to mark out a goal area and have a "no shooting in the area" rule.*

Throw-ins, corners and goal-kicks

Often the play area will not have defined boundaries. One end of the pitch can be broadly defined as the extension of the goalline. The other boundaries are sometimes obvious: walls and fences are best. The general rule is just to not go too far away. It may be helpful, if play is moving a long way away, for the referee to allow the player in possession to come back towards the goal unhindered by opposition players. Balls obviously going out of play are usually restarted by the goalkeeper.

Free-kicks and penalties

Free-kicks and penalties given for fouls are usually given to the player fouled. There is no defined goal area for penalties to be given in and this is up to the discretion of the referee. If a free-kick is given a long way from goal the referee may allow the player to take it to himself. In other words, to just start dribbling from the free-kick position.

If a player is penalized for handball in an important position the usual solution is for the referee to award 'penalties all round'. This means that each player (apart from the penalized one) takes it in turns to take a penalty. There are no rebounds.

Yellow and red cards

Yellow and red cards are a feature not often used in all-against-all games. If they are, the rules are very variable. A common way of using the is that yellow card (obviously there is no actual card) is given by the referee to a player as a way of warning him that he is watching him. There will be no culminative effect like real football. A red card will be more like a short suspension; a player must sit out for five minutes, or until the next goal is scored.

The Games

n and in

This is the simplest of all-against all games. One player goes in goal and the others try to score against him. Once any player has scored a predetermined amount of goals, he becomes the goalkeeper. The game carries on till everyone is bored, or it gets too dark and you can't see any more.


  • The game can be played tackling or passing. Passing is a friendly version where players tend to try to score elaborate goals in a non-competitive fashion.
  • Any number of goals can be the target
  • Instead of all-against-all, this can be played in teams.


This game is also known as cuppies or cupsies. The game is organized in rounds. In each round, players must score a predetermined number of goals to score (which increase in later rounds) and the last to do so is knocked-out. The increasing number of knocked-out players sit around smoking and heckling the remaining players.

The best way to clarify the rules is to look at the case of a five player game.

  1. One player is picked as goalkeeper.
  2. Round One begins. The four players play all-against-all. Each player who scores is through and sits down. This continues until three of the four have score. The fourth is knocked out.
  3. The Semi-final. The three successful players play as before except they have to score two goals. Again, one is eliminated.
  4. The Final. The first remaining two players to score three goals is the champion.
  5. If a new game is started the first to be eliminated will be the goalkeeper.
If there are more players simply add more rounds.


  • Again, can be played in pairs.
  • As a variation to the 'first out is new goalie' rule, the champion gets to choose the new goalkeeper.

Headers and Volleys

This is a slow game were players conspire against the goalkeeper to score from a header or a volley. To start with, each player has a score (usually ten) and a starting goalkeeper is chosen (who usually gets a bonus point for volunteering. The players contrive to score by chipping the ball to each other and shooting using only headers or volleys. If a goal is scored, the current goalkeeper loses a point. If a shot goes wide, over or otherwise out-of-bounds then the last player to touch it swaps places with and becomes the new goalkeeper.

The rule for half-volleys varies. Either it is ignored with no change in goalkeeper and no point penalty. Other times it counts as if a non-volley was scored: a goalkeeper change.

When there are only two players left, the one with the highest score is the winner.


  • Headers and volleys is noded seperately with subtly different rules where players score points instead of the other way round. This actually seems to make more sense than the way I grew up playing!
  • To make the game harder the rule can be changed so that the heads and volleys must be scored from headed and volleyed passes involving three different players in the move.
  • It is possible to play this in two or more teams who tackle each other whilst trying to set up volleys between them.

Now, anyone up for a kick-about?

* Thanks to Catchpole for reminding me of this one

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