Monkey Post: A special kind of football.

July 18, 2019 0 By Cypher9ja

Monkey post is the Nigerian variation of five-a-side football. While five-a-side football is normally played indoors or on an outdoor grass pitch, ‘monkey post’ is played on the streets.

It is a time-honoured tradition, a rite of passage for any football loving male Nigerian and in a highly populated country that is obsessed with the beautiful round game, that’s a lot.

You don’t need an indoor venue or an astroturf to play ‘monkey post’. All you need is for you and your friends to commandeer a section of a street in your neighbourhood.

You can use a ‘felele‘, ball for ‘monkey post’. When a player is carried away with excitement and smacks this light ball with his toes, it swerves all over the place. As it swerves, time freezes and monkey post players hope that it does not land on the windscreen of an expensive car.

The legendary 'felele' ball (
The legendary ‘felele’ ball (

The defacto ball for monkey post is known as ‘Health 5‘, designed with black pentagons and a striking ‘5’ font. It is made from rubber and wool and can take a good hit without swerving all over the place.

The popular Health 5 ball (Sunway Sports)
Sunway Sports
The popular Health 5 ball (Sunway Sports)

Stones are normally used as goalposts, but tyres are also a common choice. In some creative cases, miniature replica goalposts are created.

A miniature replica goal post on a major street in Lagos during the gubernatorial elections in March, 2019 (Pulse Nigeria)
A miniature replica goal post on a major street in Lagos during the gubernatorial elections in March, 2019 (Pulse Nigeria)

To ensure fairness, a foot count is done to ensure both goalposts are of the same length.

And the game starts…

A game of monkey post is known as a ‘set.’ Before the game starts, both teams agree on the number of goals a team must score before it can be declared the winner of the set. In most cases, it is always a low ranging number, 2,3, or 4.

If a team scores the agreed number of goals, it becomes the winner of that set. The defeated team leaves the set for a new team ready to challenge the winner of the last set.

A monkey post team is usually made up 5 players. It could be 3 or 6, but 5 is the most common number. There are no goalkeepers in monkey post. The player who tends the goalpost is called the ‘last man’. He is meant to block shots with his feet and not his hands. The build-up of the attack also starts from him. Grassroots tiki-taka anyone?

Monkey post is about quick thinking, accurate passes, sublime touches and fluid dribbles. Shot accuracy is also a skill that is needed. Because of the width and height of the posts, accuracy and not power will help you score goals.

Imagination is required in monkey post. The makeshift goalpost usually doesn’t have a bar so even if you land your shot in between the posts, it must not go higher than a certain height.

That imaginary height is determined by arguing, screaming, shouting, and yelling from both teams. The team with the most persuasive argument or really the one that yells the most determines whether its a goal or ‘high ball’.

You can play ‘monkey post’ with your bare feet, ‘Dunlop slippers‘ or ‘worn out sneakers’.

A game of monkey post going on in Lagos Island. Some of the boys are playing with their bare feet, others with slippers (Pulse Nigeria)
A game of monkey post going on in Lagos Island. Some of the boys are playing with their bare feet, others with slippers (Pulse Nigeria)

Games of ‘monkey post’ are where skills are practised until they become perfect. ‘Kolo‘ or ‘toros‘, ‘Cutting‘, ‘snakebite‘, ‘leg over‘ are common football tricks that elevate a set of monkey post to an entertaining spectacle punctuated by laughter whenever one of these skills is properly executed.

‘Monkey post’ is a honer of skills and the streets they are played on are theatres of dreams. Boys who play ‘monkey post’ have dreams of dribbling Virgil van Dijk or laying a killer pass for Kylian Mbappe.

For the older generation who play ‘monkey post,’ it is just a means to relax and sweat out the stress. All the dreams of going pro had long vanished when faced with the responsibilities of adulthood and the harsh truth that they can not win the Ballon d’Or.

Beyond just football, monkey post is good for social bonding. Friendships are forged in a set of ‘monkey post’. A brotherhood can come out from successfully defending sets.

Essentially, ‘monkey post’ is all about trust. A ‘set is intense, demanding high concentration. In this fast-paced game, you have no other option to trust the man in front of you not to mess up your pass, or when you lose the ball, you trust that the guy behind you can intercept the ball.

The bants don’t stop after the game. Over pure water or cold soft drinks, guys give reviews or highlights of sets. Silky dribblers are hailed, their poor victims are taunted and controversial decisions are debated.

Monkey post is also an indicator of your social standing, especially back in secondary school. The owner of the ball is automatically the captain, and he gets to choose his team. The guys who make his team are usually the best ballers and friends of the captain. The guy who gets picked last is normally the outcast, and he will be stuck at the post.

Over the last few years, private grassy five-a-side pitches have started springing up in Lagos especially on the Island. They are mainly patronized by white-collar guys who want to unwind after a long day at work or beat the traffic or just sweat it out during the weekend.

Yet, nothing can take away the popularity of monkey post. It can be played virtually anywhere. It sharpens skills and creates friendships. Monkey post is more than passing a ball on a street, it creates memories that will be cherished for a long time.