As the world heals from the pandemic, pick-up matches are on their way back as well. Pick-up matches exemplify all the best parts of soccer: intense rivalries, healthy competition and the opportunity to sharpen your skills. But before we go out and pull some hamstrings, let's take a look at a Reddit thread where user u/huazzy asked the community about their most memorable pick-up matches; they did not disappoint.
These Reddit stories will have you either texting your group chats to set up a match or blocking those same numbers. Enjoy these random, funny pick-up match stories from Reddit users and even a few bonus stories from staff members here at The18.
Wildest Pick-Up Match Stories, As Told By Reddit
1. Definitely Not a Handball
"A few years ago down the local park I accidentally gave out two nosebleeds and a broken arm, all from people blocking some of my shots. I was around 17 or 18 or so and everyone else a year or two younger. First some random kid who hadn't been down there much got one of the nosebleeds from a deflected shot, then a little while later my brother got one from one that was going over. Then trying to block a low shot he stretched and it hit his arm, and while he didn't think it was too bad to start with it turned out to be broken... And he tried to claim it wasn't handball…"
2. Stay Humble Kids
"There was a game a few year ago where I was keeping. There were some people on the side that were really annoying me, yelling abuses etc., telling me I was shit. So our team scores, and we take the lead. So I decide to run over towards the fans, and start hooting and jumping up and down. Meanwhile my team has returned and the other team takes a kick off. I try to run back but the team takes a long shot and the ball goes over my head and they score.
"In the same game, a teammate passed the ball back and it went through my legs and they won. Most embarrassing match ever and I was never goalkeeper again."
"In high school, I used to play some serious pickup games after school and in the summer. Now, I've had more glorious moments in real games and moments where I've had goals that meant a lot. However, this time we kept playing into a thunderstorm. We didn't care (we were stupid), but the rain was coming down heavy to the point where the field was more liquid than solid.
"The ball was slipping and sliding, but we didn't care. I won a corner on the left side, so being right foot heavy, I took the corner. With the amount of water on the ball, it was spinning just a bit more, and I'm not going to lie, there probably was a bit of wind too. I took the corner aggressively, and almost as if I planned it (which I really was trying to do anyway), the ball curled back left and dipped into the top right corner. My Corner Kick Goal is something I'll never forget, and it lives in our discussions and remember whens to this day."
4. New Friends Needed
"You know those back heel volleys? Ball crossed a bit behind me, stretched back to flick it forward over my head. Twice in one game for a goal. One on each foot."
"Went home and interrupted a bunch of friends watching a movie to tell them about it. They didn't care. I still think about it, and it's been more than 10 years. Only ever did it once after that."
5. Don’t Fly Too Close To The Sun
"While playing a game with a bunch of B teamers from various city/town clubs and a couple of local friends in Central America, a player brought his 1st team 1st division cousin to play with us. At first he didn't want to play as he wasn't allowed to by club contracts, etc. etc. but as we promised to play clean, confirmed the state of the pitch, etc. etc. he eventually agreed to play. He simply ripped us apart, minute after minute and goal after goal.
"Long story short, we were down by like 8 and he falls back to defend and push from the rear. I received the ball mid pitch as his whole team pushed forward and managed to isolate myself, ball on foot, against him and then... a nutmeg. I don't even think it was intentional or not. Everyone started laughing and screaming as he stood there confused and I turned to laugh briefly and point and scream and laugh some more as the GK started coming out.. filled with the confidence of the previous dribble I then attempt to kick the ball past the GK to score a symbolic goal (since we were already down by a lot) of pride on an empty net.
"The truth is: my story ended at the nutmeg and pointing. As I looked forward and saw the GK pushing out I stumbled and sprained my ankle. I had to be carried out as I couldn't put weight on it and then could not play for a couple of months. Moral of the story: don't point and laugh or count your eggs in the basket or... etc."
6. Keep Your Friends Close And Keep Your Enemies Way Far Away
"Here is my biggest lesson learned. I played indoor at Chelsea Piers in NYC when it first opened up. I played on like 5-6 teams (I was always good enough to play for free but never good enough to get paid to play). We had kind of a ringer team, guys that worked there and a few of us "hired guns". We were playing this big thick Irish team and we were giving them a proper caning.
"It was time for the tricks to come out and I pulled off an audacious move which lead to a goal and started laughing. Now I was laughing because I really had no business pulling off my little trick however the very big Irish lad didn't quite take it that way. Needless to say the next time I touched the ball he went right through me. As I lay on my back wondering what the hell just happened the lights of the complex were blacked out by his hulking mass and looking down over me he said, You don't fucking laugh at me!.
"After the match, I apologized and said I meant no disrespect. I explained I was really laughing that I was able to pull off the trick and not at his expense. He took me at my word and we shook hands. I still love to pull off cheeky moves but to this day I am very aware of my reactions so as to not disrespect my opponents."
7. American Revenge Story
"When I was 15 I visited my family in England including my older cousins. (18 and 20) They ended up taking me along to a pickup match in the park. Naturally, since I was an American teenager playing with a bunch of English college students, I got quite a lot of stick. One guy pretended to be explaining the rules to me. Another one gave me a talking to about how there were no pads and I couldn't use my hands. When sides were chosen there was an audible groan when I was chosen. They were all expecting me to be shit. It didn't help that I was super intimidated and didn't say a single word.
"Once we started playing, I absolutely hosed them. I nutmegged pretty much every player on the pitch and got a bucket-load of goals and made one particularly brilliant pass, where I slid the ball through the man marking me's legs and between two defenders the ball ended up on the the right foot of a team-mate. To this day I consider that the best soccer I have ever played.
"My Cousin's and all their shit-talking friends were amazed. Apparently, their friends still ask after me 10 years later."
8. World Cup Pickup
"I attended the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and my group of friends and I found ourselves in a city called Durban (the "resort" town of South Africa). Since Durban was a host city, they set up a bunch of Fan Zones where people could watch the matches in public or participate in contests or even play a pickup game on the beach.
"It had mini goals, line markers and even volunteer refs in full beach ref gear. So we signed up to play and out of "coincidence" or predestined chance we were matched up against a group of Japanese who were there to watch the Japan v. Netherlands game at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
"Why is that significant? Well my group of friends and I are of Korean descent, and I'm sure you're all aware of the inherent rivalry that is seemingly built into the relationship between both countries.
"So this random, leisurely pick-up game suddenly had the implications of a global rivalry upon us. As we waited for the current game to finish up we realized both teams were doing some serious stretching and warming up. Not only that, but we all decided to wear our respective jerseys and colors. Red for Korea and Blue for Japan. It was on!
"Our timeslot finally arrived and we noticed that our Australian ref crew had appropriately titled the match Japan vs. Korea Rep. The atmosphere was tense, and a group of tourists and locals started gathering.
"By kickoff, we even heard a few cheers of "Dae-han-min-guk!", but Japan seemed to be the home team given the high number of Japanese fans visiting for the match. Asia's greatest rivalry had arrived in Durban!
"The game was gritty and intense. If you've ever played in sand you realize that finesse doesn't come easy. It's a tough pitch and the game gets aggressive in tight spaces.
"At one point a Japanese foe came at me with a rough sliding tackle. Sent me "flying". The Aussie ref blew his whistle. But he ran towards me and booked me with a yellow. 'Doiving!' he yelled.
"'What?!' that was a foul. Ok I exaggerated the fall, but that was the South American in me. But the Aussie ref thought I dove. Whatever.
"Japan opened up the scoring. A cannon shot reminiscent of Captain Tsubasa (Or Super Campeones as it's known in South America), from beyond midfield. I swear that kick had a ring of fire trailing behind it. It caught our goalie completely off guard. The dominantly Japanese crowd exploded in celebration and the goal scorer celebrated by beating his chest and kissing his fist into the air. 1-0 Japan.
"But not shortly after I received a beautiful pass down the right flank. I dribbled past two Japanese defenders but was met by a third near the corner. I put my back against him and boxed him out, waiting for the right time. Just then my friend Paul cut across the lane and I flicked the ball up from the sand with my right foot and barely threaded a pass with my left. Perfectly timed, Paul rushes towards my ball and puts it just past the Japanese keeper. We mob Paul and pile on top of each other. 1-1. Halftime.
"The 2nd half was a defensive standstill. Hard tackles, incredible saves by both keepers, controversial calls. Cramping calves and sweat soaked shirts. Even a few bloody knees.
"Aussie ref signals for 1 minute injury time and we decide to give it our all. I send a through pass to Peter who returns it to me, and we start our own version of Tiki-Taka. We successfully march down to their territory, where Peter finds himself surrounded by 3 Japanese defenders. They're all over him, rough shoulder nudges and foot placements. Peter falls to the ground but as he's falling he barely gets a kick off which trickles away from the keeper.
"Goal. 2-1 we win. We win! We Win!
"We gather around midfield hugging each other and screaming. We soon after shake the hands of our valiant opponents and exit the field with our heads high and our spirits higher. Tourists and locals congratulate us and Korea. Great feeling.
"We then celebrate by chugging Carlsberg Blacks and watching [real] team Japan lose to the Netherlands 1-0 with some hot Afrikaners we meet at the fan zone. No regrets.
"One of the most memorable pickup games I've been a part of."
After reading these hilarious pick-up stories on Reddit, I wanted to hear from the staff at The18 about their favorite pick-up moments. I got some intriguing anecdotes back, so enjoy these bonus stories from The18 team.
The18's Wild Pick-Up Match Stories
Mother Nature’s Divine Intervention
"It was senior year of my high school tennis season and we were at the most important match against our long-time city rival. We were warming up on the courts as raindrops started to fall, quickly ruining the match.
"Our match was canceled, but next thing you know, the other team brought out a soccer ball and our pick-up match was underway. As the rain fell and the mud accumulated around our sneakers, we ran around a grass field with way too many guys on each side. As the intensity of our match grew and grew, it soon eclipsed the importance of the would-be tennis match. Our coaches started to grow angry as it got more and more aggressive, slide tackle after slide tackle.
"I did put in a few goals against their 10-man defense, which I am still quite proud of. I don’t remember the score but never have I had so much fun from an unplanned event. As rain ruined our other sporting event it made the soccer match way more intense and enjoyable."
— Staff Writer Ike Hartman
The Time I Was Adopted By The Vietnamese Exchange Students
"My junior year of college I went out for intramural soccer and joined a random team as a “free agent.” It was immediately clear during the first game that no one on that team had played soccer before. We got our asses handed to us 6-0 in our first game.
"A noble, loyal player sticks with their team to the bitter end. I was neither of those and jumped ship the first chance I got. One of my classmates had a team and needed an extra player. It was only after I joined that I realized the entire team was made up of Asian exchange students, with the majority being Vietnamese. English wasn’t the spoken language on this team.
"When I asked to join the team’s group chat I was asked, 'Do you speak Vietnamese?'
"I didn’t speak and was barred entrance to the group chat. They threw me at left-back and said ‘chúc may mắn’. I was able to contribute here and there but I couldn’t understand a damn thing being said.
"On the bright side we made it to the quarterfinals and put four goals past my former team. Am I proud to have quit my former team? No. Did I make it much further than them? Yes."
— Staff Writer David Moore
Chasing The Bag
"I used to play soccer in a big, professional field that was kind of close to a dangerous neighborhood. One day, after training, I was walking to the exit of the place with two friends and teammates. Then one guy came to us and said he wanted to play with us, outside of the field (they wouldn't give us the field to play casual). We accepted and asked other two teammates that were still there to play, they accepted and it was a 3 vs. 3. We had four of our school bags as the posts (lol).
"After like 20 minutes playing, the guy that approached to us asking to play, grabbed one of the bags on the floor (mine!) and started to run to the bad neighborhood. We became crazy and ran behind him to get my bag back, and at one point he dropped it and escaped it. It was a crazy experience.
— Staff Writer Felix Delgado
"Back in college, club rugby was my main sport, but I still made sure I signed up for intramural soccer every semester — often playing with and against some of my rugby teammates.
"An important part of rugby is the social aspect of the sport, so we would often have team challenges. One such challenge involved carrying a raw egg around with you for an extended period of time.
"Essentially the last person that still had their egg would be declared the winner, and the rest would receive a punishment. There were two ways you could be eliminated, first, an upperclassman could ask for your egg, and if you didn't have it, were out, second, a teammate could also try and smash that egg.
"This meant you had to protect your egg at all times; class, the cafeteria, the library, even the intramural soccer field.
"That semester, I had two rugby teammates on my intramural team, and all three of us still had our eggs come game time Sunday afternoon. We decided to have a truce for the hour-long match, but my one teammate decided he didn't trust us. Instead, he put his egg in a rubber glove and carried it around for the duration of the match.
"Not only did his egg stay intact for the entire game, but he also managed to play the match of his life. This guy was a really good soccer player already — probably varsity material at our D-III school — and the way he played, it was as if he wasn't even holding an egg. He slalomed through the other team — which had numerous ex-players from the school team — with ease, scoring multiple goals and covering the entire pitch.
"To this day, it is still one of the most impressive athletic feats I have ever witnessed."
— Staff Writer Liam Hanley