The Muhrens – like all the Dutch greats of their era – learned their football in the streets. Arnold: ‘My brother played with his friends, and when I was five or six I started joining in. I started off in goal but I could never stay there; I was always running all over the place and eventually they said I could play with them. We weren’t exceptional. Everybody could play football at a very high level. At the time there was little else to do but play football. If you couldn’t play football, bad luck: you had to go in goal. We played everyday. If it was raining, we played in the bedroom. At school we played football between lessons. When school finished, we played on the street again; there was no traffic. We played with anything as long as it was round – rolled-up papers tied with string, anything. Some people’s parents had money and could get hold of a proper ball, but mostly it was tennis balls. You develop great technique like that. The ground was so hard, so you didn’t want to fall because it hurt; so you have good balance. And the game was very quick because the hard ground makes the game quicker. No one ever told us how to play. It was all natural.
Arnold Muhren as quoted in David Winners book: Brilliant Orange.
The street football environment Muhren describes, reminds me of the pick-up basketball games of my childhood.
We’d play all day long in the summers, adapting the standard game of full court 5 on 5, into various micro-games.
If there was three of us, we’d play 21. An every man/woman for themselves, winner takes all mini tournament. The goal being to score 21 points, without going over, through a combination of three pointers, two pointers and free throws.
It’s basketball blackjack.
If there was only two of us we’d play HORSE.
HORSE is a shot matching game. The first player calls his shot and the opponent has to match it exactly – off the backboard, nothing but net, left hand only, etc.
If your opponent misses the shot you call, they receive a letter. The first player to receive enough letters to spell out HORSE is the loser.
And if we got bored of all of that…we’d lower the hoop to 6 feet and have a dunk contest.
Not sure it made us better players, but it was fun as hell.