I played 11 a side football yesterday for the first time since I really can’t remember when. It was a “fun” game against Broughton under 18’s. My illegibility for this game had all the characteristics of Eoin Morgan playing cricket for England, it was supposed to be a Dad’s game, though my inclusion was on the back of Nick Mabey’s dubious decision that I counted because I was the boyfriend of the mother of a daughter who played in the under 8’s, if that makes sense. I pounced on this window of opportunity quicker than a cat on an unsuspecting dormouse, seeing it as a chance to prove to myself that at 43 years old, there is in fact, life in the old dog yet. Sort of.
The reason that I am typing this blog now, is that I have a very real fear that within the next couple of hours my fingers will join in with the rest body and cease up, rendering me disabled from the head downwards (I can still blink!) and being fed through a drip. I play badminton and tennis at least twice a week and I go swimming quite a bit so, stupidly, I thought I was physically well prepared for this game, and I was really looking forward to running the show because of my superior fitness to the other Fathers who would be in awe of not only my ability, but also the way I could dictate the flow of football match against younger players with less nous. I thought I could be Matt Le Tissier. The funny thing is, all the other daft fuckers were thinking along the same lines as me, as men have got an ability that is unique, and that is never to learn their best days are past them.
Beckley, Lethaby and Mabey: A Trio of Brilliance
?As we strolled out on to the pitch two things came immediately to my attention. Firstly, the pitch seemed huge and secondly, it was really bumpy. In fairness to the groundsman it was probably no bumpier than when I used to play Sunday football, but the fearlessness of youth has passed me by and I had visions of my knees caving in with one wrong footing on this pitch. Anyway, as has always been the case with young lads, they had set their team up with the soul purpose of taking the piss out of us as much as possible and they were soon creating chance after chance as we creaked and groaned under the pressure.
My first touch of the ball resulted in me spotting one of our players out on the wing who I drilled a pass in front of by about twenty yards whilst urging him to race clear of the U18’s defence. Usain Bolt may have just got to it, but this poor chap didn’t have a chance. He started falling over after about five yards but somehow defied gravity for another fifteen before his faced finally ploughed comically in to the dirt. It was hard to know if his red face was of rage at me, scuffed flesh or an imminent cardiac arrest. Perhaps a culmination of them all. Half time arrived with us fortunate to be 2-0 down. What I had learnt during the first half was that my 53 year old mate Pete Beckley, a bit of old hippy who wears an CND badge and plays in a local band, is far from peace loving on the football pitch. He is in fact what could be described as a bit of nasty fucker, which gave me an unusual feeling of pleasant surprise.
?Real Men: Broughton Old Boys and Dad’s
The second half of the game started with Pete laying out a 17 year old boy with the combination of his knee and an elbowed upper cut and briefly things got a bit out hand with the lad politely informing Pete that “For fucks sake it’s supposed to be a fun day mate.” Kid’s, they just can’t take being knocked semi-conscious by ageing rockers these days, I just don’t know what the world is coming to. Pete, rather wisely I thought, withdrew himself from proceedings and the game got back under way with a combination of muffled giggling and embarrassed silence and I actually started getting more involved in what was proving to be a staggering come back, as playing in front of me was decent player aptly named Pumpkin and behind me at right back was another guy who could find me with a pass nearly every time. We actually started causing the opposition problems with increasing encouragement from the sidelines.
Incredibly, and I will claim two assists here, we got back to 2-2 and then came my chance of glory. I found myself free on the right side of the halfway line and seeing one of our lads in possession I called for a pass, half hoping that he would not see me or bang the ball way over my head and out of play. I wanted to be hero, but I didn’t want to be laughing stock, him fucking up the pass was, in my eyes, a far better option than me fucking up a golden chance. However, he slid a pass Lionel Messi would have been proud of right in to my path, so all I had to to now was race half the length of the pitch coolly drift past the on rushing keeper and roll the ball in to the net. If only life was that simple.
As I have got older my head has got faster than my legs so I found myself desperately trying to stay on my feet as well as attempting to control a football that was bobbling all over the place and had apparently acquired a mind of its own. After what seemed like about three hours of running on the spot, I finally got within striking distance of the goal, but the young defenders had now lightly jogged past my scurrying little legs and the angle on goal was narrowing. I looked up, there was still a chance, so I pulled back my leg to smash the ball towards goal. As my foot made impact with the ball a wave of exhaustion bordering on nausea came over me and the shot trickled weakly in to the hands of the keeper who fumbled it just a bit, out of what I suspect was pity. The chance had gone and more disturbingly, I felt a bit strange, I couldn’t feel my legs.
I did however, manage to reinvigorate myself enough to have a hand in our winning goal which came after a calamitous goal mouth scramble and at the final whistle I felt I had done enough to be considered for selection next year. As I walked off I had the unique feeling of having what I can only describe as a throbbing face, I could actually hear it, it was likely the distance sound of a base player. It was a hot day so maybe it was a bit of sunburn as well, but it was an odd feeling I can tell you and it was quite a relief when it started receeding. An ice cold beer soon started cooling me down and though I could already feeling muscles beginning to tighten, I had avoided serious injury or heart failure, though I reckon if I still smoked I would be writing this from a hospital bed, or even worse, one of you might be penning an obituary for my untimely funeral.
So as I sit here contorted like an 80 year old man, do I have any regrets at putting the old boots back on?
None at all, I loved every minute of it!