I came across a group who organised events online and instantly felt I got on with the creators.
Despite my only interaction with the group being through an online platform, it felt like this was a place I could feel at home. I spoke to the group’s creator, Chris, to find out more about what it was like setting up something like this, and the effect it’s had on his and others’ lives in Amsterdam.
Chris the Creator
Chris came to Amsterdam three years ago for work. His experience is like many others: new job, new place, but with the majority of friends and network back home. Chris also loved football. But by his own admission, Chris wasn’t very good at football. Nor was he a huge fan of the intense competitive element that serious footballers bring to the sport.
What this self-described ‘terrible footballer’ wanted was to be able to have a chilled out game with people who took neither themselves nor their abilities too seriously. But as he well knew, you need more than cones, bibs, and goals even for the most relaxed of kickabouts.
Some of his friends had started organising football events in London, with remarkably speedy success. These events had drawn in people from the local community who loved football but shared a relaxed attitude towards the game. Why not do the same in Amsterdam?
Getting things moving
It’s strange, he says, putting an activity online and seeing what will happen. You never know how things are going to pan out, if people will turn up, what they’re expecting, whether any number of things could go wrong. But even on the first meeting there were enough players for a proper game. His engaging description attracted people who ‘got it’. Some of these early joiners remain standing friends, and dedicated attendees of the group years later.
From there, things began to move of their own accord. The following increased and so did the attendance. It is satisfying to see something you create beginning to take its own shape and establish its own identity. Of course it needed to be carefully tended by Chris and his fellow organisers to retain its special character and keep things moving. But as the months passed, it became clear that this was a community in its own right. It was a place that even the worst footballers felt welcome, and where strangers could bond over a shared passion and forge lasting friendships.
Part of the reason Chris thinks the group worked so well was because it was self-consciously casual. This means people come with an open mind, and are just as happy to knock the ball about and have some beers as they are to play eleven-a-side for an hour. It also transfers the burden from the organiser’s shoulders to all those who come along. Things are crafted from the bottom – by those who take part – just as much as they are by the careful work of the creator.
From his humble, understated attitude, it would be easy to underestimate the effect Chris and his group have had on people’s lives. But the fact is, whether someone came once or fifty times, they remember terrible football and the people they met there. What happens next – what people do with those new connections – is a happy mystery.