We’ve all seen these people before.
The vast majority of pickup players are normal, solid players. But if you’re in a game with at least seven other people, there’s a good chance that at least one of these guys or girls will turn up.
The Pickup Stereotype XI
Doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that the fact that we’re playing with small goals means he’s not allowed to camp by it and simply block every shot with his body, in lieu of playing actual defense. Despite that, he never volunteers to play goalie if we’re playing with big goals.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Slow Guy
Nemesis: The Number 10
The Last Pick
The Last Pick is bad, or at least of a lower level than most of the other players in the game. But now he’s already out playing, and he can’t just leave ten minutes in. So he tries to hide himself in defense. Often it ends up that he’s matched up against the Ball Hog or the Faux Ronaldo, which suits both parties just fine, since the latter two have someone they can show off against, and the former has someone good out there skinning him, which means everyone else attributes it to their skill and not his lack thereof.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Slow Guy, The Old Guy
Nemesis: The Cherry Picker
The Slow Guy
Note that slow doesn’t necessarily mean bad; in fact that’s usually not the case. There are two types of slow guys, the slow guy who knows his limitations, and tries to work within them, and the slow guy who used to be good but is now terribly out of shape, and so he runs hard for ten minutes before getting winded and dropping back into the defense.
Sometimes overlaps with: Anyone but the Wingback, the Hustler, the Faux Ronaldo and the Number 10
Nemesis: The Hustler
Has a one-dimensional game, jogging out to his chosen flank at the beginning of the game and stays there the entire time. He’ll run up and down all game, delivering crosses one minute, putting in tackles the next, but all his movement is vertical. He’s like a player in one of those bubble hockey arcade games, attached to a metal rod that you push and pull to slide him forward and backward.
Wes tells me that he counts himself in the ranks of Wingback, it was Adams’ pickup play that inspired this entry in the first place, so he’s got at least a little Wingback in him, and I’m, as I said before, at least occasionally a Wingback. I don’t know what this means, but it seems important.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Hustler
Nemesis: The guy on the other team who’s trying to play Wingback on the same flank.
The Human Yellow Card
Those bruises you discover the next day probably came from him. Sometimes he once was an American football player, but not always. All you know is that he hits really hard, and plays with a physicality two levels above what everyone else has come to an unwritten agreement on. Also known as the Nigel de Jong.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Hustler, The Last Pick
Nemesis: Everyone, at least in their minds.
Not Paul Newman. Makes up for his lack of skill by outrunning everyone else. Probably a former cross-country runner. When I was in shape, I was this guy.
Sometimes overlaps with: The HYC, The Wingback
Nemesis: The Human Yellow Card, who he runs into more than other players
The Faux Ronaldo
Usually spotted in a jersey, typically of a team from the continent rather than the EPL. Someone who’s always around the ball, either winning it in the middle of the field or pushing it forward under complete control. Capable of pulling off some pretty spectacular jukes and cuts to get around his defender, the kind of moves that make you think, “He might be the best player out here.” Until you realize that unlike his namesake he doesn’t score very often, and that most of his passes go two steps in front of or well behind their intended target, and that he actually might not be very good at all. Faux Ronaldos are the soccer equivalent of basketball players who score 30 points a game but do so on 31 shots.
Sometimes overlaps with: No one. There’s only one Faux Ronaldo
Nemesis: The Number 10, who’s just making him look bad.
The Number 10
The actual best player on the field. Typically has a subtler skill set than the Faux Ronaldo. He’s almost always found in a central midfield role, where he can boss the game. He may not have as many moves as the Ball Hog, but he scores, passes, and goes on runs exactly when you want him to, which means pretty much everyone enjoys playing with him. Usually found on the better of the two teams, which isn’t a coincidence.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Hustler, which is a particularly dangerous combination.
Nemesis: The Ball Hog. It’s hard to control the game without the ball.
The Ball Hog
Like the Faux Ronaldo, but he passes even less, usually only after he’s beaten at least three people on the dribble for every time he touches the ball. Capable of being a good team player, he just chooses not to be. Occasionally has one move that he gets so enamored with, he does it a dozen or so times a game. Unfortunately, it’s usually a stepover or some other stalling maneuver, rather than something he can actually go by somebody with.
I once saw a Ball Hog who decided that for one game, every pass he played was going to be as an exaggerated no-look pass. Every time he went to give the ball to a teammate – only ever sideways or backwards — he used the same head twitch and hip twist meant to throw a defender off a pass that the defender wasn’t bothering to try to intercept anyway. I almost strangled him, and he was on my team.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Cherry Picker
Nemesis: The Old Guy defender, who oftentimes is too crafty to fall for his crap.
The Cherry Picker
There are two types of Cherry Pickers. The first is the kind who decides that since we’re not playing offsides, there’s no reason to get back in front of the last defender each and every time, when he can just wait to receive passes in the open space behind them. This is not, under any circumstances, okay.
The second actually abides by the offsides rule, coming back after each trip down the field but still hanging out more or less exclusively in the offensive zone, which gets annoying for those on the team who keep dropping back to cover on defense even as they’re tiring. Of the XI, this is the one I’ll admit to being guilty of, though only the second type.
Sometimes overlaps with: The Ball Hog, the Slow Guy, the Old Guy
Nemesis: The Wall
The Old Guy
Not old old. Just old to be playing pickup soccer, or significantly older than the rest of the group who’s playing. Oftentimes they’ve lost a step, but are still good players. The old guy, moreso than any of the other stereotypes, might play anywhere on the pitch. One game’s old guy might be a lockdown central defender, while the next day’s is a second striker or a crafty winger, or sometimes the same old guy will play all three in the same game. Is usually bald.
Sometimes overlaps with: Everyone. Like I said, Old Guys can pop up anywhere.
Nemesis: Faux Ronaldo, the HYC
I don’t doubt that there are many more pickup characters not included here. If you have an idea for who I missed, or just want to tell us which of these stereotypes best describes you, post a comment below or send a tweet to @O87Minutes with the tag #pickupXI. If we get enough good ones, I’ll post a Reader Feedback XI in the same format next week.
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