Imagine, for a moment, if the only place available on campus for pick-up basketball were the Quonset Hut—that depressing half-court on Newton campus. Sound silly? Well, here is an update for you: This was soccer’s situation with the Newton field hockey field, the only soccer-sanctioned space on campus, until recently. Because of these limitations and a high demand to play soccer, students have been forced to wander around campus in search of a space to play. For years, the University has taken an unnecessarily aggressive stance toward the phenomenon of pick-up soccer without doing anything to accommodate this healthy pastime.
And, when I say aggressive, I mean aggressive. In attack, we have seen the striking duo of angry Alumni-bubble-security dude link up with its perennial goal-machine, the Boston College Police Department. Yes, security did indeed threaten to call the police while a peaceful party of footballers (read: soccer players) made the most of an empty American football field one past winter evening.
Like the clever Catalan midfielder Xavi, BC has twisted and turned itself away from this devoted contingent of BC students, its pick-up soccer players, passing off their problems to intimidating authority figures who have no choice but to enforce hard-line University rules.
Let’s adjust our focus to the backline, though, because defense wins championships. Defense also keeps students off the pristine, untouchable Zen garden that is the football practice field. A BC employee usually flies in on a golf cart to kick them off at a moment’s notice. This footballer’s (read: soccer player’s) forbidden fruit can be found just beyond the right field of our equally well-defended varsity ballpark—a ballpark that conveniently doubles as a beer sewer during football tailgates. It is a shame that BC lets hordes of drunken people adulterate the baseball field for tailgating and leave it smelling like a wet Mod carpet, while denying students a few hours of healthy, wholesome fun soccer playing in the same space. I would even argue that we aerate the soil.
Yes, the ideal soccer experience requires a large grassy or grass-like space, complete with goals and sidelines—the whole shebang. Yet when you get down to the bare bones of soccer, you find that it is one of the most minimalist sports out there. Four shoes to set up goals and a ball—that’s all you need. And forget grassy and grass-like spaces. In many parts of the world, soccer is actually played in much the same way as pick-up basketball—with smaller sides, smaller fields, and smaller goals. Known colloquially as futsal, this style of soccer just needs a flat surface. Basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts—anything works, really. Soccer is very adaptive to its environment. Futsal is the short-term answer to a longstanding lack of soccer facilities, and after collectively bothering BC Rec this summer, the soccer community got … well, something. Now, every Friday evening, a few of the basketball courts in the Plex turn into this long-sought-after soccer haven.
To summarize: tennis enjoys 10 courts, basketball six, and squash and racquetball a combined four. Soccer suffers because it has zero accessible facilities with open and specific hours for soccer players, both indoors and outdoors. There is some good news, though. BC Rec has done a good job by beginning to treat soccer as it treats other sports. There is no doubting BC students’ love for soccer—indeed, they were the only contingent of students to show up to the otherwise empty Plex basketball courts on both the Friday of Parents’ Weekend and this past Halloween Friday.
It’s odd that one of the most popular sports on campus has encountered so many obstacles to legal existence. Well, maybe it’s not too odd. BC boasts a lot of varsity athletics for its limited real estate (big shout out to Harvard for letting our teams use its soccer field and track), and it’s pretty cool that athletic peasants like me can share in the fun at all. What’s not cool is how BC often gives preference to, well, everything other than soccer. In the short term, these Friday nights are a step in the right direction. In the long term, however, new facilities need to take the BC pick-up soccer community into consideration. With the retention of two-and-a-half practice fields outside the new Shea field dorms, why not? I’m looking at you, 10-year plan. Soccer only needs a half-field half the time.
Featured Image courtesy of William Flautt