Tag Archives: football

264. How long has it been?

How long has it been? Twenty-two years? Twenty-three? I fell madly in love with you then. Wanted to be near you as often as possible. First just on the odd weekend. Then every week. Then almost every day.

How great they were, those first years. I was young. You, quite a bit older. But we clicked. Boy, did we click. The stories we could tell. The glorious adventures we went on. The trips to Spain, to Greece, to Tokyo. I still think of them as the best years of my life. Nothing could go wrong. We’d remain in that bubble of joy forever.

Sure, we’ve had some rough patches through the years. There were times I wanted to throw in the towel. But I didn’t. And you kept welcoming me back with open arms. We came through those bleak times. Together. Stronger.

So, what makes this different? What makes this so hard? It’s quite simple really. I’ve fallen out of love with you. Everything I adored about you, has evaporated, one quality at a time, until now all that is left, is a mere ghost of our affair.

Don’t think I have taken this decision lightly. I’ve had countless of sleepless nights over it. I have told myself that things will turn around for us, like they always have. But I no longer can believe in that lie.

That is why I am leaving you. I’m not trading you for another, don’t worry. I never could. But for us, this is the end of the line. You have broken my heart too often of late. It has destroyed me.

I leave without grudges. I wish you all the best. I hope, someday, you will win the league again. Or a European Cup. But I won’t be chanting from your terraces.

 

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229. The black midget ref

The black midget ref had kept his stumpy legs going for fifteen minutes but now the pace of the game was catching up with him. This was no pub team match. This was the big leagues and he was seriously out of his depth.

As he huffed and puffed towards the opposite half, he no longer heard the mocking laughter from the terraces. He could barely even see what the players were up, so amply the sweat poured into his eyes. All he could think of was why he had started his crusade in the first place.

Sure, he was black, and that was not easy. But on top of that he was ‘vertically challenged’ as the papers had wittily put it. A combination born to breed both uproarious laughter and overt discrimination. And as he had discovered, there is a saturation point. That bridge too far, where you have no alternative but to jump into the deep end and fight back.

So he had started his crusade against the Football Association. He had always been a ref in youth matches, and though he knew he was ill-fitted for the upper tiers, he would get his revenge on all those who had laughed in his face by shamelessly playing the discrimination card. Needless to say, the press had jumped  on the story like a voracious tiger, leaving the FA no choice but to give in on.

And now here he was, plodding along the pitch, with hardly enough energy in his small body to blow a whistle.

When he eventually went down, in the 23rd minute, the terraces were laughing louder than ever.

They’d later tell their grandchildren.

I was there, they would say.

I was there when the black midget ref died.

 

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225. She does yoga and calls it a sport

She does yoga and calls it a sport.

I sit in front of the TV and watch the football. I’d call that a sport as well.

She doesn’t.

But as long as she allows me to be her downward dog, I’ll let it slide and worship her like Messi.

 

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185. The floodlights give out

The floodlights give out and Bubba is stranded in the dark, just as he crosses the ten yard line, his big moment blown, it seems.

But then a dim glow emerges, followed by another, and a third.

In seconds, thousands of lights from all corners of the stadium illuminate the field and bathe the end zone in blue.

Bubba keeps on running.

It’s a touchdown.

It’s a triumph.

It’s a smartphone miracle.

 

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108. Seventeen penalties

Seventeen penalties. Three missed by them. Two by us. And now, one glorious chance to lift the trophy.

They had called him ‘the kid’ ever since he made his debut for the national side aged a mere sixteen years and four months. But now, aged twenty, it was up to him to become a man.

He stepped towards the penalty spot and picked up the ball. It was still slippery from the second half rain. He positioned it just on the edge of the grassy white dot, took a couple of steps back and waited for the ref to blow his whistle.

If he scored, they would surely erect a statue. He’d be the kid – the man – who’d brought his country the highest honour there is in this sport. If he missed… he couldn’t bear to think what would happen if he missed.

The whistle blew. He started his approach.

Left leg. The keeper was staring him right in the face.

Right leg. The keeper didn’t budge. He had eyes only for the ball.

Left leg again. The penultimate hurdle. Time to make up his mind. Time to pick a corner.

Right leg. The noise subsided. No more cheers. No more boos. Just the sound of his pounding heart.

His choice was made. Top right.

His foot struck the ball.

That’s the last thing he remembered before waking up hung-over in the bar of their hotel. As he stumbled to his feet his eye caught the TV playing the highlights of the game. For the first time he saw what he had done.

And he cried.

Uncontrollably.

He cried.

Like a man.

 

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