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The lonely and silent history of the ball boys

The importance of their role in sports

The lonely and silent history of the ball boys The importance of their role in sports

Those who in childhood played on the streets, or who still plays in an isolated countryside pitch, knows exactly that moment when your friend with very few technical skills decided to kick the ball two blocks further. By that time you and your teammate must wait several minutes before the ball -obviously, the only one you have- is rescued. Imagine if in a Series A match the players had to wait that long after each Abate cross. There would be nothing left after the 20 minutes of injury time in every match.

In order to remedy this problem, someone invented the ball boys. Young kids who always seems to be under pressure, super focused and, especially those of the tennis games, robotic in their own way to move. But when were the ball boys invented?

Even during the Egyptian empire, there were ball sports, but the ball boy was invented in the early '900's, in England. In 1905, Chelsea Football Team signed for 50£ from Sheffield United, Sir. William "Fatty" Foulke, a huge goalkeeper, enormous compared to the others player. He was 1,93m tall and 146 kg heavy and he decided to adopt the strategy to enter on the pitch accompanied by two children, and in so doing he would seem even bigger. We are pretty sure that William wasn't very nimble, in fact, the goalkeeper, to keep his energies up, started to use the two boys as his personal assistants, asking them to recover the ball kicked away by some English gentleman.  From that moment on, all the ball sports adopted William's personal strategy, helping the athletes and the sports to become faster and more fluid.

                Lonely people in a solo sport


Tennis is the sport where the ball boys are most in the spotlight. In Wimbledon, 250 potentials are selected from 1000 candidates, chosen from South West London schools and they spend six months practicing with particular physical and visual tests. Main skill requirement? Being able to roll the tennis ball quickly and as straight as possible. It's a really hard and strange selection process.


The Roland Garros provides for an even stronger selection, with more than 4200 candidates, and you could risk getting offered a drink by Djovovic or get overwhelmed by Dzhumur, it depends on the fortune.

The new current leader of ATP ranking is the player with the funniest ball boy relationship. He often is the protagonist of funny episodes, which explains why watching his matches is always an unexpected show, without a script. Verdasco and Tsitsipas, however, prefer to keep them nervous and we don't forgive them for that, especially because if King Roger leads the way respecting ball boys, we must trust him.


              Hurry up kid: ball boy in football


We can make a point of how ball boys influenced the course of the games. If in basketball, tennis or in a baseball game, ball boys don't affect the game, in soccer it's not like that. Two different sports such as tennis and football are unique in having a protagonist so deep inside the action. The main difference is that in football, the balls, thrown in play quickly or slowly can determine the game duration and therefore the team's tactics. Just think of what Guardiola did during a Manchester City match when he gave instruction to a ball boy to be faster when the Citizens were attacking. In some stadiums, for example in San Paolo, the visitors can feel make enemies even of the harmless kids around the field, who hide all the balls if you are loosing or holding you back if you are winning.  Pagliuca can confirm, during Napoli-Inter in 1995, he argued with the Neapolitan ball boys, receiving a rain of bottles coming from the stands.

Managers don't only give tactical commands but also complain about the ball boys, as Mourinho did two years ago, when he fired the Manchester United Foundation kid, replacing them with the United Academy prospects. Sometimes managers celebrate with them, after all, they live, like the players or the coaches in the intense feeling of the game, becoming unconscious protagonists of the show. The ball boy who was kicked by Eden Hazard wasn't very lucky, but he gave us a nice simulation and a funny moment after the insults to the Belgian player. Also, an AS Roma ball boy, during the last Champions League was pushed by a Shakhtar Player. We want to invite all the players to respect the ball boys, especially because they could become the next King of Rome or your favorite captain.

We’ll continue to climb over our neighbor's fence or find balls among the tall grass in the countryside, but fortunately, in Serie A we could continue in another way but the important thing is to mind the wall.