Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The Beautiful Game And I
I reflect on the past. Of the smell of grass under blue skies. Playing in fields in schools, rubber estates, on beaches, on construction sites, with a bottle cap, tennis ball and even a rolled up newspaper on bitumen roads, basketball courts, class rooms, scoring goals between posts made from motor bike helmets, breaking windows when I was trying to correct my long passes and of course playing a game at that field in Manchester. I forget the name....
It has been a good trip. As I dramatically contemplate my 375th retirement from this game I look back on the best and worst moments of The Beautiful Game and myself.
I started playing football at the invitation of my neighbors. Surprisingly 2 'bai' flers who had the skills of Brazilians. i wasn't very good but I used to be quite fit. The bug hit me when i was invited to join a local club team at 13. I have no idea why they called me. I had the skills of a peg legged baboon. But I had just started training with the school athletics team so I guess they just wanted my speed. The team was made up of essentially the under-14 school team which mean I got to train with the team. I guess i was only in the team for sparing with the reserves and guess they liked to see me take down stupid wingers who THOUGHT they could live on speed and the common sense of a brick.
Anyway, I made the school team at 15 and then the wars began. Up until I was 20 I played at different levels - school, district, club games, etc. I hated playing:
1. Teams from the Army Colleges - they were the bastard offspring of the Energizer Bunny and Uruk Hai Orcs. Hard, fast with the fitness of Gurkhas we were outfought on every front. We had some skill and I was still one of the fastest backs in the state. Nothing like the satisfaction of taking down a careening orc with well timed tackle. But every game left us feeling like we'd been leg humped by a 300 pound gorilla.
2. Indian dudes from the estates - what to say - faster, fitter AND more skillful. PLUS if we fouled anyone we would probably been set upon by their supporters, all wielding motor bike helmets. They were hard mother fuckers too. I actually went shin to shin with one dude and my shin pad cracked against his unprotected shin. He groaned a little but got up and walked away without a fuss. So we'd just pack the defense and pray for rain or snow or an alien invasion, whichever came first.
I used to LOVE playing government boarding schools - rich punks with slick jerseys with their own team nick names - Tom Cats, Strike team, etc printed on their shirts. We just took them out. Better marking, lessons learnt from playing Army, we took THEM PUNK ASS DIVAS OUT. My buddy at left back crowned a particularly good year when we marked their so called star winger out of the game resulting in the said winger bawling out like a baby with tears of frustrations. To paraphrase Dexter the Boy Genius, "Success motherfucker!"
I played the game as I loved it. I played with what i had - no skill and a willingness to take bodily punishment to stop any fool getting into the D. I worked harder than anyone on the pitch to make up for my lack of size. I would chase out any fool who thought they could outrun me (silly rabbits...). I loved the freedom of standing on the pitch knowing that the person next to me had my back.
I loved playing on lush fields in rubbers estates in the middle of Negri heartland, on games at the Army base next to a beach in Port Dickson, on rain flooded fields in the pouring monsoon rains. I love the smell of the grass, the polish of my boots, the hard-on you get putting on the freshly laundered shirt before the starting whistle.
But of course games were sometimes fraught with drama - we had plastic bag full of piss thrown at us during games, we had supporters of opposing teams turn up with helmets for our games on neutral ground (but our supporters ALWAYS turn up with hockey sticks :), we played a game in the middle of low cost flats where an all out fight broke out but nothing worse than a little old lady from the opposing team spitting on our mid fielder. That hurt more than any wayward punch! We played on pitches pockmarked with cow dung (in the estates of course), thorns, fields that were more the Sahara desert. And of course the odd cobra who would wonder onto a field if we were playing next to an oil palm plantation.
I've also had clowns grab me in the balls during the game. It seems it was something coaches were telling their charges to do during some games. So I've had the pleasure of:
A. I'm going for a header. The dude sneaks his hand behind and grabs my nuggets as we go up for the ball
B. I'm marking some clown in a tight corner, he tries to run past and wacks my boys with the back of his had as he tries to barge through me.
I find this extremely disturbing. I dunno man, I would not want to go near another man's privates, let alone grab them but here on a field with testosterone levels at a high SOME future lady boy Queen of the Night deemed it OK to grab away at my 'cikus'. Of course I made the poor sod pay for it. An elbow to the spine never felt so satisfying...
But it's a good run. I need a break. Maybe for a short while. I need to rest up the weary bones. I'll probably be back. If at only playing footie on a Playstation...