When I was a kid and football madness ruled my life, I built a pitch in my back garden. It wasn’t much of a pitch, really; just two wooden five-a-side goals sunk into the earth about thirty yards apart. I strung second-hand nets onto the goals, and my friends and I played endlessly, day after glorious day. It wasn’t long before we churned away every blade of grass, earning the pitch its affectionate moniker, “The Dust Bowl.” After I moved into goal full-time, I replaced the two small goals with one full-sized one, giving up fun kickarounds for hours of serious training with my friend Eddie Raleigh. The Dust Bowl wasn’t pretty, inasmuch as it was a pit of dirt and mismatched wood posts, but it gave me a little thrill every time I caught a glimpse out the window of the net softly billowing in the breeze. Football has an undeniable magic, and pitches exert a powerful call.
We eventually joined competitive youth teams, got a bit bigger and stronger, and outgrew The Dust Bowl. My mother let wild Florida ferns reclaim it. Ten years ago she sold the house with the goal still standing strong, albeit shrouded in vines, a survivor of multiple hurricanes.
A real back garden pitch is the dream of most kids. Happily, not everybody outgrows those dreams.
“I had always dreamed of it since I was a kid,” says Steve McCormack of Sligo, Ireland. “Growing up in Ireland playing footie in the garden with my brother meant usually playing in the mud or not playing at all, with our wonderfully wet weather. Twenty years of dreaming became a reality this year when my wife and I finished our house and got stuck into the garden. I always told her I was putting in artificial grass and goalposts, but I don’t think she really paid any attention to me until a set of goalposts showed up, and then a truckload of lovely green carpet.”
Steve McCormack built a pitch in his back garden. Not a pitch like The Dust Bowl, but a real pitch, with the latest 3G artificial turf, a hand-crafted full-sized goal with match-quality nets, and – coming soon – floodlights. This is so many kinds of fantastic that I’m tempted to spin metaphors about the power of dreams to keep us young, but Steve’s pragmatic take on it trumps any allegories: “We built the house last year and the garden had to be done anyway, so I was lucky that I could put in all the drainage pipes without having to dig up an existing garden. Then there was two feet of gravel on top, but I needed to get that done anyway, as it’s a new house.”