Get Rid!

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if
 that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out.

Georges Perec Species of Spaces (1974)

Paul Whitty’s Get Rid! investigates the sounding cultures of grassroots football in the North Berks and Oxford Senior Leagues and the  Ligue de Football Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

To listen to the sound of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds, playing fields and village greens is to listen to the fleeting traces of a rich sounding culture. The iterative ritual of marking out the pitch, cutting the grass, fixing nets to goalposts with cable ties and driving corner flags into the earth. Then the distinctive practices of on-pitch communication; the whistle; the sound of football boot on ball, of the ball as it lands; the struck crack of the crossbar; studs compressing the soil, brushing the grass, slicing through the turf. Grassroots football is a game of noise, silence, presence, absence, activity, inactivity. The sounding comes in waves — building, receding. Pitches stand empty for
days then startle into exuberant sound-making action. Football
 is present. Football is happening. A substitution is made; the ball takes a wild deflection from a corner — disappears into a garden
— and is followed by a player who climbs over a fence and into undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; the goalkeeper argues with his left-back about how many players should be in the wall; the central defender argues with the ref
about the infringement; the assistant referee checks his phone for messages. There’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or lost in their own thoughts. Then the game crackles into life with a high tackle; a controversial decision; a header that slaps against the post; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who, instead, ends up kicking the dugout. The final whistle. The everyday sounds of
the parish recreation ground, playing field and village green return. Football is absent. Football isn’t happening.

You can read more about the project on the Sound Diaries website here and on the Oxford brookes University research repository RADAR.

5 thoughts on “Get Rid!

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  1. Nostalgic thoughts of thirty years of playing local football in Oxfordshire… many heavy defeats, two broken legs, occasional glory… one hat trick

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  2. It would be great to talk to you about some of those experiences! I’m particularly interested in on-pitch communication and whether that has changed significantly in recent times? One thing I have found in my research is that there is far less regional variation than I was expecting…

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    1. I’d be happy to have a chat. It’s twenty years since I played, and what struck me most about listening to the recordings in the Glass Tank was how little has changed, made me chuckle a couple of times. Been trying to think of any particular ‘local’ idioms but I’m struggling to do it. The ambient ‘no football’ noises are interesting too because sometimes they do cut in to the games… dogs and traffic mainly I guess, but there was a large rookery alongside the ground in Wootton, the village I played for most, and impossible to avoid the noise of a VC10 taking off at Brize Norton.

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      1. Sometimes when you are approaching a game and are still a good distance away it’s hard to tell the difference between the calls of rooks and the calls of the players particularly when the players are shouting warnings ‘man on’ etc! Would be great to talk – i’ll drop you a line on email…

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