AMSTERDAM, Holland - In a graffiti-sprayed underpass deep in the Amsterdam suburbs, a group of young footballers are developing the skills that could turn them into superstars, following in the footsteps of Dutch legend Edgar Davids.
This is street soccer, and it’s growing fast.
The urban version of the ‘Beautiful Game’ is smaller, faster, more personal and can – even Davids admits – be more exciting to watch and to play than the 11-a-side version.
The game is well developed in Holland, giving birth to players like Davids, Urby Emanuelson and Gregory van der Wiel, and with our ever growing cities, these Street Soccer ‘courts’ are now appearing all over Europe.
“I think the recruitment of street soccer players is getting bigger and bigger because everyone moving to the city needs some space to play football,” says Davids, speaking on a film for Ford’s Fascinating World of Football.
“My street soccer story is a common one. You start out on the streets with your dad and then you start with your friends and then you get older you follow your friends to a football club.
“I played street soccer every day, five or six hours, and also we went to other neighbourhoods looking for other good players to battle them. And that’s how I created a name for myself.”
Many professional players have honed their skills on the streets and although sometimes it’s easy to spot, Davids believes that the top-flight game often stifles that creativity.
“Sometimes you definitely know a player has a street soccer background,” he adds in the Ford film. “If you look at Gregory Van der Wiel, you can see in how he touches and moves the ball that he used to play on the street. If you look at Suarez you also see that movement.
“But sometimes the stakes are so high at the top level that it’s more about playing chess and knowing when to do it and execute it. It’s often more about just retaining possession than it is doing tricks.”
It is the speed of the game and the size of the court that makes it such a good proving ground for young footballers – with fancy footwork needed to get around players and plenty of opportunity to practice shooting skills.
But beyond the football, it also gives people the opportunity to learn some of the more important skills needed in everyday life.
“In street football we say you can beat a guy in a square foot,” adds Davids. “It’s that close, that tight, you have to have that skill and also invent things in a split second, you have to think faster than normal. You have to be disciplined and you have to have concentration and dedication to be a good player.
“I think kids benefit from that. Not everybody’s going to be a professional football player – but street soccer gives you the basic tools to excel in life because if you want to go to school or go to work you need discipline, dedication and concentration. Street soccer goes that deep.”
This is part of Ford’s Fascinating World of Football, a 3-month series of weekly stories highlighting some of the more unusual stories of European football. To follow the tour and find out more about the support vehicle, the all-new Ford Tourneo Custom, visit facebook.com/FordTourneo.