David Beckham and John Terry spent their youth there, it spawned an England World Cup winner and even Lionel Messi wanted to play on Hackney Marshes March 28, 2021 – Posted in: Soccer
Hackney Marshes is an iconic hub for grassroots sport.
The grounds have provided an opportunity for thousands of youngsters to regularly play sports for more than seven decades.
Founded in 1946, the pitches were made with rubble from the heavy bombing during the Blitz. At its peak, the Marshes would boast 120 full-length pitches with around 2,500 footballers playing every Sunday.
Known by many as the spiritual home of England’s Sunday football, it soon became renowned by locals and to this day remains as a popular spot for a kickabout.
The atmosphere and memories attached to the pitches make them one of the most important grounds in football history.
They were key to the development of some iconic players who have had incredibly successful careers in football.
Chelsea legend John Terry started his football career on the Marshes, playing for Sunday league team Senrab as a midfielder before joining The Blues.
He played for the club from the age of 10 until he was 15 years old, while he was in the same team as fellow future Premier League players Jermain Defoe, Ledley King, and Paul Konchesky.
Senrab will always be held in high regard for its development of young talent. Tony Carroll, the team’s secretary, credited the ‘infectious energy’ at the club as one of the reasons for their success. Terry even donated to the club when they had financial difficulties.
David Beckham also credits the Marshes for the development of his football career. The legendary Manchester United and England midfielder lived just two miles away from the grounds and would frequently train there, no matter what the conditions were like.
He told Sky Sports: “Football has been a part of my life from a very young age… I remember going over to Hackney Marshes, freezing cold, snow, wind, rain, everything possible.”
World Cup winner Bobby Moore was another icon who trained there and the former England captain was one of thousands turning up at the footballer’s playground.
The cultural impact of the pitches are immeasurable, Jermaine Wright, vice-chairman of the Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football league passed away recently.
Working in a pharmacy, he spent his free time mentoring young footballers and organising matches. He was known in east London as ‘Mr Hackney Marshes,’ and was vocal in ensuring prices stayed low so children of poverty still had access to the grounds.
Such is its status in the football world, Barcelona legend Lionel Messi ‘spontaneously’ headed to the Marshes to come on as a substitute in an amateur match back in 2010. However, it was quickly cancelled as he was mobbed by fans.
The publicity stunt for the Argentine’s boot sponsor adidas was all over the news and caused a frenzy for east Londoners who were in awe that one of the greatest players of all time even knew of its existence.
Nike also paid homage to the grounds with a star-studded advert featuring Eric Cantona, Ian Wright, David Seaman and Robbie Fowler.
The ad was filmed on the grounds and is a great portrayal of the iconic, gritty amateur football that made the Marshes what they are today.
So next time you’re in London – or you find yourself enjoying the nation’s new favourite pastime that is a long walk on the pitches – be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next football megastar.