Monday, 11 July 2011

There's nothing quite like a thorough spanking...

It seems fancy boots do not help...

At least once in every man's life, there comes a time when the delicate facade of assumed invincibility is flattened by a steam train of depressing yet frankly inevitable events.

Take football.  Now I know that there are many men out there who have no interest in the game, and even I have to agree with the adage that it is 'a gentleman's game, played by hooligans'. But I love it.  Not in the same way that some at this weekend's five-a-side tournament love it - the ones who would clearly jump at the chance to mud-wrestle a bear just to turn out in their team's colours.  Those who pay to have their team's crest tattooed on their ball-sack.  Those who would emit a colourful tapestry of Anglo-Saxon abuse at their own blubbing offspring for failing to halt the run of the opposition Number 8.

a typically gangling foray into the opposition half ends in disappointment
But yes, it is my game.  The one for me.  I like rugby, very much so, but unfortunately a frame more suited to lying in a black plastic tray with all the other minty Matchmakers tends to fare poorly when ranged against fifteen mobile brick coal bunkers.

As we prepared for the first match, the nerves began to take hold. It is of course an overstatement, but it felt like we were going into battle, like those lining up against us actually wanted to kill us.  I should point out that this kind of thing is not my bag.  I do understand that sport is legalised warfare, and an overwhelming desire to win at all costs is an essential element of the overall sporting mentality, but it's a mentality that I simply don't possess.  I'd be a crap sperm.  I was really rather more keen on having a quick natter up top ahead of a leisurely contest between gentlemen, and I had no notion of the powerful, multi-faceted football-based spanking that lay in store.

How they let me in the team at all remains a mystery to me.  Once sprightly and fleet of foot with at least a modicum of ability on the ball, I suppose I would admit relatively readily that my game nowadays is based more on periods of rest punctuated by short bursts of activty. In hindsight it was a recipe for slaughter.

To give our team some credit it may have been more a fitness thing than an actual ability thing, but I was out of breath within half a minute and weeping after five.  The pace was like nothing I had encountered for years, and I was soon on my knees, literally and psychologically.  Spluttering and wheezing like a beached turbot, I attempted to clatter my way through the crowd to get even near the ball.  It was of course in vain as we conceded the first goal - all five of us watching like the proverbial headlamp-lit rabbit as the ball flew past us into the back of the net.

I wanted to yell something to a team-mate, something constructive, something rousing - something sporty - but when I opened my mouth nothing came out except for some dribble and the few rubber pellets that I hadn't already ingested from hitting the Astroturf.

As the end to our opening clash approached we were numerous goals down, with no reply. I started to realise why the Romans made four into five with a diagonal cross - it was decisive and damning in its simplicity.  After a suspected infringement I queried the referee as to why he had not spotted the offence but his almost apologetic response was that he had been 'too busy writing the score down'.  Damnation indeed. But in the next game I spotted my opportunity. Our second set of opponents had a comparatively elderly man lurking in defence.  At first I thought he might just have been lost, but soon decided that it was too much of a coincidence that he was wearing the same t-shirt as the rest, and anyway, the nearest Tesco was well over three miles away.  

'Aha', I thought, 'if anyone is ripe for the taking then it is the gentle-looking grey haired fellow over there.  I shall simply stand near him and seize my moment'.  

It was all coming together.  My moment of redemption.  My Spain to his Trinidad and Tobago.  My kettle to his ant.  Like a leopard stalking prey, I had carefully and cunningly selected the weakest of the bunch, and would surely triumph according to Darwinian logic.  Yet to my shame even he was too strong, and no sooner had I hatched my plan than he embarked upon a devilish run and turn of which a ballerina would have been proud, duly making me look like a grass-roller and making the score look rather a lot like 6-0.  Or something... I had lost count by then, and certainly did not possess the requisite energy to offer him a jovial 'good effort, granddad' by way of a riposte.

It was getting worse.  It now felt like my knees had gone absent without leave, and as I've never been one for taking football chatter seriously, no amount of 'pass, Dave', 'run, Dave', 'in the "mix", Dave' was ever going to cut any mustard, even had I been in possession of a full complement of physical faculties - let alone the ball.  I seriously considered lying down to hide, or attempting to camouflage myself as a goal-post.

The pensioner came up to me on the final whistle to offer the obligatory and largely false congratulations on a 'good game' but as he extended a wrinkled hand I could see the superior sneer driven by primal self-satisfaction lurking in his presbyopic eyes. He'd told me during our gentleman's banter before the contest that his lot 'hardly ever played together' where as I recalled cheerily proffering the futile detail that we 'play every week'.  Git.

Left trailing in the wake of a pensioner

With legs like jelly and a body possessing all the strength of a wet banana skin, I felt I simply could not continue. The mind was willing - indeed, the mind still retained visions of walking out to the adulation of massed ranks cheering at Wembley - but alas all the indications from the body were that a stadium appearance was more likely to be getting locked in after a drunken prank with a traffic cone, a jar of Nutella and a pair of underpants.

It's clear - competitive football for me will from now on be confined to shouting at other people.  I've always asked myself why it is that those who make it in professional football get there - and as I nurse my aching limbs and sore spine it is painfully clear that they are only to be congratulated on their dedication, with fitness having a substantial part to play.  An obvious point perhaps, but I hadn't previously realised quite to what extent this is a defining factor.  After this weekend's exertions I shall certainly think before casting aspirtions on someone pertaining to them being a 'talent-free knob-jockey' (or sentiments to that effect) for not living up to the high expectations we place on those who play for the teams we follow.  I've had a sip of competitive football - albeit at a level far below anything that makes it to our TV screens, and it was hard to swallow.  I kept going until the inevitable knock out came - and was proud of myself even for that miniscule victory in the face of adversity - but ritual humiliation by sport at the hands of... well, everybody - is not really the way I want to go. Bring on the Laz-e-Boy and the remote control...

1 comment:

  1. But the action pictures are very impressive. Perhaps weave an alternative tale around them for dining out in the future!


David F Burrows
Composes music for videogames. Dabbles in topiary. Frequently mistaken for Doctor Who.