Sunday, August 12, 2007

A cold night in August. On playing in the Coaches v Coaches

A coaches v coaches game is going to be makeshift. But it is the sought of thing that our club is excellent at. Bringing together children and their parents, different cultures and economic circumstances and creating a fun learning environment. Big heads and trophy hunters aren't really at home. But like everyone, we like winning.

And our club has its share of off-field champions. More than its share. But like everyone and everywhere, we are too reliant on too few. Human nature. The workers do so much carrying that the carried don't even notice they are being lifted.

Some of these champions are just like us. Others have great footballing CVs but you never really find out. They are here because this is the type of club they like.

Anyway. I walked into the change room with a group of men about my age who I don't know that well. So I opened up with a loosener. 'I used to play in the 1st division.' The unspoken response is a mixture of 'smarty' and relief. So I followed up with, '29 years ago when I last played.' It worked. Laughter. Nothing funnier than the truth in black humour.

Like everyone, I dreamed of bulging the back of the net. But it wasn't going to be. I noticed in the warm-up that no-one was wearing the keeping gear. So being a bit hyper, I started asking where the seven foot, 18 year old was that we needed. He, nor anyone else, was coming. So I volunteered for goalie.

It started bad and got worse. I was really keen to get my first touch so I called for a back pass, and picked it up. Damm. I forgot about that rule. Survived the free kick. But for my second touch I got over excited trying to kick a ball away. It connected with my studs and kept going. Someone, who ran far too fast for his age, whipped in behind me and scored. Damm. (1-1) Then someone crossed the ball and it went through my legs (so that's what being nutmegged felt like). But at least they don't score. Actually, I started to get the hang of it. Long minutes of doing nothing, then intense pressure for 30 or 40 seconds. Actually, this is what my team's goalkeeper tells me he likes and I can see why. But 100 kilos running full pelt at you can be a little intimidating, at first. But I had noticed how slippery the ball was and I had got my 'eye in'. They only got one more goal when some smarty chipped me from outside the box, and I miss-judged where I was. I actually pulled off some good saves. Not world class but I did charge back at strikers and got down on the ground to take the ball from a striker's feet. Plus our defenders did some real tackling, which surprised me. I found that even though the ball was like a block of concrete, I could kick it over half way from goal kicks (despite how my leg feels today I am still glad I did that). Cool. 3-2 to us at half time.

In the second half, I owned up to not being a good goalie and switched to mid-field - which when I ran out of breath ended up as striker. Should have stayed in goals. By the time our team worked out what I was doing I had made about 10 runs into gaps, curving to stay onside. And I had lost my edge. Well, I was bent over and holding my knees. I thought this would make the other team relax about me and but after a couple more runs this became a necessity. So our team started pumping balls down the left wing for me to chase. Which I did, and did do some great work to keep the ball in. But crossing it from the far left was something else. Stationary free kicks were one thing, kicking the ball across goal while running as fast as I could was something else. Then it happened. One of my team-mates, running behind me, got the ball and I ran forward and towards goal - it was on. And he cannoned the ball straight into my back. Thanks for that. The game got a bit slower after that. 3-4 to them.

I went back to the changing room and closed up with another loosener. 'Hey number 10, if I'd been 10 years younger I would have got those passes across to you.' He replied 'If I'd been 10 years younger, I would have got them.'

Ah, that happy sound again.

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