Images: Morgan Allan
South East Dons are one of YouTube’s biggest football teams. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, you probably should have. The Dons have 185,000 followers on YouTube and a considerable social media presence. I discovered the Dons when they were a lot smaller, in the old school days, when they were playing on a variety of dodgy pitches in and around Peckham. Things are pretty different now – most of the squad are non-league players and the Dons count the likes of Declan Rice and Stormzy among their fanbase. The club’s rise is impressive and they are a team I’ve always kept an eye on; so, when the opportunity came about to go see the Dons, it wasn’t something I was going to miss.
I was meeting them at Goals in Eltham. Goals have almost forty-five centres across the UK and they are quality. Local meccas of five-a-side, each centre is home to multiple small sided pitches and, walking through the caged thoroughfare, it feels like you’re in FIFA Street. As we arrived on a cold, dark Wednesday night, we were hit by the smell of football: a heady combination of sweat, Lucozade and those little black beads drifted through the South London air. Across the pitches (each named after various famous stadia) there was a proper mix of young and old, all arriving to kick a ball about. Exciting games were already underway, but we were here for one reason: to see the Dons.
Crooks is the SE Dons’ five-a-side man. He’s been around since 2014 and has seen the SE Dons go through their rise to the top of YouTube football. He told me a bit about their involvement with Goals. “We’ve been coming here for two years now. It’s really great. We don’t train so this stuff really helps keep the lads’ fitness levels up.”
Everyone knows each other at Goals Eltham. Most teams were seen mingling and having a chat after their games. It seems like a pretty social space and, with everything going on at the moment, it was nice to see people just having a laugh with their mates. The SE Dons seem well-liked by the locals.
“Goals is a huge part of the community. We love it here. Everyone knows us, other teams stay and watch. We’re going to go global!”Big G
This is Big G, SE Dons’ eleven-a-side keeper and part-time five-a-side enforcer. If you have seen any of the Dons’ online content, you have seen Big G. He is, quite literally, hard to miss, and with several Soccer AM appearances between the sticks under his belt, he’s a pretty big part of the Dons.
Tonight, SE Dons are playing at the Eltham Goals’ version of the Camp Nou against a well-organised No Caps FC. The game starts in fairly scrappy fashion, but the Dons’ quality shines through in the end and they run out deserved winners, 7-3 on the night. But even if the cameras and the custom kits weren’t there, I reckon all the Dons would still be rocking up to Goals every week, looking to get involved with some five-a-side.