Coming from Brazil it almost seemed inevitable that football would play a big part in my life. And like most kids there, I was introduced to the beautiful game through the World Cup. For Brazilians, it is one of the most important cultural events, probably rivalling weddings or the birth of a first child in uniting friends and families.
In the run up to the finals, streets are painted with the Brazilian colours, every window is draped in the national flag and from start to finish it is an epic festival, celebrating what used to be (apart from the recent years), the greatest football nation in the world.
My first memory of the World Cup was during Italia ’90. I’m not sure why this lodged itself in my mind, but it’s one of my most vivid memories of my childhood. On that day Brazil was facing Argentina for a place in the quarter-finals. As usual, we were gathered at my auntie’s place and her tiny flat was packed.
In the 78th minute, disaster struck. Argentine striker Caniggia scored the winning goal which would lead Argentina to the semi-finals and in one strike, destroy the collective hopes of our nation for another four years.
As soon as Argentina scored the goal which knocked us out, one of the adults shouted, “If Argentina wins, it’ll be no more sweets for you kids!” The idea of a life without sweets seemed as unbearable as the impending defeat. Somehow I felt that the whole nation was being punished for the result. It was my introduction to the drama of the game and the gut-wrenching pain that every fan experiences when the footballing gods turn their back on your team.
A few years later, in 1994, I was lucky enough to feel the surge of euphoria as Brazil took it all the way and won the World Cup. As for the treats, it was an empty threat. The same adult would have probably offered to buy the sweet shop that summer. And from that point on I knew that football had become part of my DNA.
Lacing up the golden boot and discovering the headache of match organisation
As for actually getting onto the hallowed turf, I’ve always been a keen footballer, playing regularly for as long as I can remember. There are many reasons I love it — as well as the obvious thrill of scoring goals, it’s a great way to unwind and it is one of those activities that allow you to meet loads of different people, from all sorts of backgrounds.
Throughout these years, I’ve played with many different groups, each with their own peculiarities. Some groups are very talented and quite strict about the rules, others can be more relaxed. And I’ve played everything from competitive 90 minutes on flood-lit pitches to laidback, kick-abouts in the park.
No matter where or how I’ve played there is the common problem which united them all — how to organise enough players to turn up each week. A good friend of mine used to be a keen organiser and would always volunteer to organise these games. He then moved to a different town and left the organising task with me.
Suddenly I started to understand how time consuming it was to organise the games. I had to juggle lots of tasks, all as important and necessary as the other — everything from speaking with the venue, emailing the football group to keeping track of the replies.
And inevitably someone would drop out at the last minute with the excuses varying from being still at work to last-minute family commitments. And everything imaginable inbetween. It was never anyone’s fault in particular — it was just the modern way, with most people leading busy, hectic lifestyles.
More than anything, it became a stressful routine and took some of the fun out playing. Equally, I started to wonder about all the people who would have been keen to play football, but simply weren’t aware of any games happening nearby.
Seeing as we now live in a digital world and there seems to be an app for everything, I did some research on tools that could help organise a game. But I couldn’t find anything that really ticked all the boxes. Sure there’s now a variety of ways to organise a game online — by email or setting up a group in WhatsApp/Facebook with your mates. But still, these didn’t seem to be anything which was bit, exclusively for football.
And the apps I found for organising football games (or sports events in general) were really narrow in their appeal — they mainly focused on managing an established team, rather than catering for the many different ways that people wanted to play a game.
So I thought — why not create one myself?
Check my next article below, on the next steps for building my app.