For almost a decade now, I’ve been regularly meeting a group of secondary schoolmates to play soccer on Sundays. Unlike others whom often have to play with strangers in street soccer courts or arrange field matches, we’ve been able to play amongst ourselves. That’s because we have a sizable number of players, and a large multi-purpose court which we adjust its size to fit our game. It can get as big as 11-a-side to a simple 5-a-side game.
We used to start our games at 10am, but nowadays people stroll in so late that we can only start after noon. The level of competitiveness has also fallen over the years. Several of the better players have left overseas or simply lost interest in the game. While some new players have joined us, they are mostly in for just a game of “Sunday soccer”.
On one hand, it still amazes me how we have kept a community together for a decade. What started as a love for the game among secondary school mates has not only kept going but become a purpose to meet up and stay in touch. No one is forced to come, every week a group of us just SMS and call one another to make sure we have enough people coming. We’ve also allowed friends of friends to join our game and this has brought in some interesting characters to the team too.
However, such openness and casualness has affected the quality of our game and has led us to question why we come together. A few years ago, we agreed that we came together no longer just because of football but to keep in touch. This was why we resisted becoming a amateur football team that went around challenging other teams. Instead, we played amongst ourselves — some taking it more seriously than others.
But, what happens when the activity that brings you together fails the community? This seems to be the problem our community is facing now. People are coming in simply because of habit. While we also come to keep in touch, there’s no reason to do that every week, monthly sessions will probably be enough. Indeed, a way out seems to be to organise a totally different activity — just a dinner or gathering.
For now, we’ve decided we still like to play our football and we like everybody to stay in touch. We’ve just got to show that we care by arriving on time and taking our game more seriously. It’s been a very important lesson I’ve learnt in community-making. It’s not something static, and no matter how casual it is, communities require a certain level of discipline and commitment to continue to stay relevant to its members