Playing Bubble Football in Wellington, New Zealand

Bubbles on soccer pitch
We’ve been in Wellington for a month now, so we decided it’s probably about time we went out and did some socialising. This is one of the hardest things when you move to a new city, finding new friends and ways to meet like-minded people.

Fortunately Jamie and I are both big users of the website Reddit. Most big cities have their own Reddit group and often the users meet up to socialise. When somebody posted on the that there would be a meetup for bubble football we decided to pounce on the opportunity.

What the heck is bubble football?

Basically it’s much like regular football apart from the very minor detail that you play the game inside of a giant plastic bubble. The idea is that the plastic bubble gives you protection from others while at the same time allowing you to body check opposing players.

In other words it’s like playing a game of football where everybody is the size of a sumo wrestler or like that girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who gets turned into a giant blueberry.

When we arrived we were a little nervous as it’s always hard jumping into new social situations, especially on Reddit where the communities are often very tight knit. I’ve seen a lot of people online saying that they’re not confident enough to go along to meetups because they fear that they’ll just stand there like an idiot all night.

I’ve had those doubts myself a lot and often I realise they’re unfounded. Reddit especially has lots of amazing members who will go out of their way to make you feel welcomed. The first few times you go to meetups can be a little awkward as you don’t know anybody yet, but with each meet up you go to your connection to the other members grows.

Reddit groups often have an informal buddy system. If you voice your misgivings about coming along alone, somebody will often volunteer to meet you beforehand, and buddy up with you to introduce you to others to make sure you know somebody before you head into a meet up. Reddit is possibly one of the most accommodating communities out there so it’s a perfect place for meeting others.

view from inside bubble

The Warm-Up

Before we started our game we went through the usual safety proceedings with the referee. Showing us how to get in and out of our bubble safely and what the rules of the game were.

We were then all told to line up against a wall and one by one we had to run and do a forward roll in our bubble. I have to admit I started to get a little nervous. All of a sudden I was transported back to being 13 years old in PE class – demonstrating my complete lack of sports ability in front of all the other teenagers.

Soon it was my turn to run and roll and I just about made it over. Next we had to do it again but backwards. Somehow I ended up on the end of the line so I had to do it first. All eyes on me. Uh oh.

Fortunately it’s pretty much impossible to tell if anybody is good at doing gymnastics when they’re surrounded by a giant bubble. Even if I was terrible nobody could tell! Even running backwards was a little tough, but with a little help from the referee I made it over. No doubt everybody else was too worried about their own bubble form to care about my own.

Once we’d mastered the art of bubble rolling we lined up against members of the opposing team and we were told to run at each other at full speed. Naturally I was lined up against the biggest player on the other side.

On the whistle we ran towards each other and it was literally like I’d run full speed into a brick wall. My face smashed into the inside of the bubble before my entire being was flung backwards. I bounced away moaning in pain.

What I said earlier about Reddit members being nice and accommodating, yeah, I lied. What a bunch of bastards!

We were told that we should do it again. My confidence was already gone though. Before playing you think that the bubble is some kind of magical protection, that you can’t get hurt, but that first hit showed me that you could still feel some form of pain. When we ran at each other the second time, I did so with less vigour. Soon enough I was back on the floor rolling away with a grimace. As I said, these guys were a bunch of bastards.

The Rules of Bubble Football
  • Hitting people down is really encouraged.
  • Each team can have a goalkeeper. The goalie is the only person allowed into the goal circle.
  • If the ball goes out, it’s a goal-kick.
  • If a team scores, it’s a goal-kick.
  • Each game is separated into quarters of 8 minutes.

The Game

bubble football wellington
Both teams lined up at either end of the pitch (is it a pitch when it’s indoors?) and the ball was placed in the middle. We were told that when the whistle was blown, we could start. It was a free for all, the first person to get to the ball would be in possession.

The whistle blew. Nobody moved. Possibly because it was hard to hear the referee and what he was saying from inside a huge bubble. Personally though, I heard him, I just didn’t want to be the first one to get the ball. That clearly meant I’d be the first person to get smashed to the ground.

Eventually one of my team-mates decided to go for it, and I followed with as much enthusiasm as I could muster (not much). Very quickly I realised it didn’t even matter if I had the ball. Within moments one of the enemy was upon me and I was down on my back like a tortoise stuck in his shell. I cursed with anger.

Anger is good. I pushed myself to my feet, looked for the nearest opponent and ran straight for him. His back was to me. The perfect target. Just as I was about to get my revenge I suddenly found myself being slammed back towards the ground. There I was again, rolling on my back, swearing to myself. Now I was really angry.

I picked myself up one more time. Shouted, “FOR ENGLAND!” and ran at the nearest opponent. That same bastard that had smashed me to the floor before the match. As I ran into him from behind he didn’t even stumble, I possibly made him take a small step forward. The only movement he made was to turn towards me with a gleam of hunger in his eye. Seconds later I was on the floor again crying.

After a few more minutes of this I was exhausted, sweating profusely, breathing heavily. It was way more hard work than I thought it would be. It was akin to playing actual football, but with a giant weight on your back. Everybody else seemed to feel much the same and the paced died down.

As the game went on my team managed to rack up the goals, but I can’t take any credit. Our own biggest player was belting them in from every angle. I quickly started to learn that the bigger you were, the harder it was for you to get hit down and since I’m so skinny I was pretty much useless. Still, I played some part in our eventual win in acting as a form of bait, taking away the focus from the rest of my team.

Towards the end of the game I realised that a lot of players were starting to weaken. By the end we were all completely exhausted and the pace of the game went down to tortoise speed. It became harder and harder to push myself up after going down. To get up you basically have to do a squat and push yourself up and after doing that for 40 minutes solid it gets really hard to do. In the end you don’t care so much about getting pushed down, but more about getting back up again.

A few of the opposing team started to lean forward with exhaustion, trying to gain their breath back. I sadly saw this as a golden opportunity. Everybody was tired and sick of playing so I could now run up behind them and spike them. In the last quarter of the game I started to take a sick pleasure in finally being able to get people down. Slow and steady wins the race and this tortoise was now on top!

Then the moment came. I was face to face with The Wall. His energy hadn’t faded. He was still 100 percent. We looked at each other (or tried to as it’s kind of hard through a bubble.) I kicked up some dust with my foot like a bull ready to charge. “FOR ENGLAND!”

We ran towards each other in a blur, I planted my foot into the floor and pushed off. His mouth opened in horror as I threw the weight of the universe into him. I hit him so hard that his bubble exploded and his clothes flew off leaving him sobbing in the foetal position in nothing but his underpants.

Ok, not really. He fell to the ground, but it was still a worthy revenge. Finally I’d beaten The Wall. I shouted, “YOU LIKE THAT?! HUH!?” but from inside my bubble it was muffled into, “MOU IKE AT?! UH?!”

Soon the whistle for full time had gone, and we crawled out of our bubbles. My team had won!


The Aftermath

As Jamie and I hobbled home, I knew my body would be aching the next day. I was right. It felt like I’d been in a car accident. My shoulders and neck were aching from the constant pressure from the straps in the bubble. My legs were sore from running around and my knuckles were raw from rubbing against the bubble.

Was it worth it? Hell yeah it was. It’s not every day you get to hurt complete strangers without fear of repercussion!

Bubble Soccer in Wellington Details
Bubble soccer is played through . The location is in a warehouse right on the waterfront at Queens Wharf making it an easy walk from the CBD.

A game costs $150 for an hour for a 4 vs 4 game. However you’re encouraged to have more players so you can make substitutes.

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