Amateur football seeing boost in demand despite Covid-19 restrictions

An amateur football club chairman has revealed that the demand for grass roots football is greater than ever despite strict Covid-19 restrictions.

Parklife FC chairman Liam Sollis, 35, from Nunhead has run the Dulwich based side since he and his friends graduated from university in 2006.  

Parklife now have two teams playing in the Southern Sunday League and requests for opportunities to play is at an all-time high since lockdown.

Sollis said: “In the past we had a key group of members in the side but over time they started playing less and so we’d struggle to get people down.

“At the moment that is absolutely not the case, it’s not just that people went a long period of time without playing sport, they went a long time without socialising as well and even in tier two now there’s not that much socialising allowed.

“Football is something that brings people together, playing football is almost like an excuse to have that contact time with people. The community function of the club has always been more important than the football.

“We may not be world beaters on the pitch but really it’s about the community ethos and having your family down to come watch you play and your mates.

“That’s what’s really important and that’s why we’ve all carried on playing. Our oldest player is 39 but we welcome all ages.

“At heart we’re all just kids who want to chase after a football.”

Parklife’s desire to keep community at the heart of the club is mirrored in a playing squad featuring eight sets of brothers across two teams.

The club are even considering expanding in the form of a veteran’s side to keep people playing into middle age.

Sollis added: “There are a few people who are definitely not the athletes they once were, it’s an idea that definitely have legs.

“Alongside that I’d like to think the core team will continue for years to come, we’re unsure if we want to become an established fixture in the south London scene or not.

“There was at one-point talk of setting up a Parklife Juniors side a bit further down the line but for the time being we’re just living in the moment and are enjoying being back playing.”

Sollis also criticised Sunday league’s bad reputation for violence, stressing that there are perfectly friendly leagues across the country.

He said: “Other clubs are professional and polite, the league’s well run and the refs are quite good. I think Sunday league varies massively depending on what you’re looking for and what league you’re playing in.

“When we first started it was pretty rough. We’ve changed leagues and the standards have improved, previously we had a player who had his jaw broken by someone in a confrontation on the pitch and once saw one game where a full on fight broke out between two teams.

“Sunday league is not the Premier League. You’re definitely not going to get red carded after a VAR check. We’ve played against some questionable characters in the past but that doesn’t seem to be the situation now.”

You can check out the club on social media, including their Twitter account and Facebook page.

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