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Grassroots goes global: How YouTube is changing the face of football – BBC News

It’s a worryingly warm Sunday afternoon in early spring. If it wasn’t for the near horizontal angle of the sunbeams cutting across the perfectly mown grass of the Jubilee Grounds, in Catford, south east London, you’d think it was summer. Are we all doomed? Is global warming going to prematurely kill us all? I take a deep breath and look around at the 200-strong crowd gathered around me – are they thinking the same thing, I wonder?

“Ref!”
“Ref! Are you blind!”
“REEEEEEEFFF?!”

Hmm. Maybe not.

Because this crowd is actually here to watch SE Dons play local rivals Hatcham FC, in an amateur football match, and right now they aren’t worrying about the unusual weather. Instead, their entire focus – and outrage – is directed toward the referee who has just disallowed a goal for SE Dons, in what looks like a harsh decision.

Salvyn Kisitu, 22, an SE Dons centre-back, who also plays semi-professionally for Hythe Town, wears a plastic face mask that glints in the sun, is so incensed that he screams at the referee, trying to claim that he’s biased against SE Dons. The SE Dons players on the pitch get caught up in the scrap, as do their furious fans and team members on the sidelines. The referee then shows Salvyn a yellow card, sending him off the field for 10 minutes which, predictably, doesn’t go down well.

“It happens to us every week!” says Salvyn as he storms off the field.

I’m now fully invested in this match which, at first glance, looks like any one of the thousands of Sunday League games being played up and down the country on any given weekend. Except there’s a cameraman standing on a chair recording everything. And there’s another guy with an action camera strapped to his head, bouncing up and down on the touchline, riling up the crowd.

And in the makeshift dugout, made from a bit of string loosely tied around three chairs, there’s a well known YouTuber and grime MC called Don Strapzy, aka Donny Jones (or Andrew McHugh, as he’s known on his passport).

The whole game – the relentless running, the flashes of skill, the wild celebrations and comedy one-liners when the SE Dons eventually triumph 2-1 – are all going to be uploaded to the team’s YouTube channel, and watched by their tens of thousands of subscribers. Yes, they are amateur footballers, essentially playing for fun on the weekend – like so many other local teams across the UK – but, unusually, they’re gaining a significant following online from it.

And, watching them on the pitch – it’s not hard to see why.

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