Fights, failed dreams and a sea of pitches: Hackney Marshes, the questionless home of Sunday League football
550 players and no spectators. That’s why Hackney Marshes is without a doubt the English (and probably global) capital of grassroots football.
Let’s be honest, amateur football is not about the quality of the game. It’s about trying to forget the failed dream of becoming a footballer. Hackney Marshes is the biggest amateur football venue in the world, located in north west London, with the London Stadium in the skyline, just to remind everyone where they’d like to be (and where they’re not).
One sunny Sunday morning I made my way to Hackney Marshes to documentate what a day there is like. It’s 9 a.m., all I can see is goals with no nets, a lot of green and some ravens. Someone in football boots makes his way into the scene, grabs a net from his bag and starts setting the pitch. His name is Benito Apollonio, and he’s been playing in Hackney Marshes for 6 years. “It’s the home of football in London, it’s iconic, where else are you gonna see like a 100 pitches?,” he says. Today, his team The Gun FC play against their eternal rivals, Clapton Community FC. If they win, they win the league.
The main leagues at Hackney Marshes are the Camden League and the Hackney and Leyton League, which has been going on since 1947 and it’s formed by around 60 clubs per season, which guarantees at least 25 games every Sunday. There’s enough space for everyone: there are around 60 full size pitches. Back in the day, there used to be around 100, but some of them were converted into cricket or rugby, and some others have been dismantled completely to become part of the public park space.