Last season, in the church league, I discovered my untapped depths of primordial passion and quickly learnt that simply shouting "come on the Fire" (their overspill suffix) was sufficient but even that was deemed too much by my son. My own father was the same (as my son) and frowned upon parents who bellowed and instructed their sons that they were playing like fairies. I also learnt that hassling the referee in the appropriate manner does get results. If he doesn’t give a free kick the first time with enough vocal criticism he will think harder next time. To be honest the team was a real Bash Street Kids mixture of personalities with a real sense of camaraderie. This, however, is not why they won the league. No the coaches son was probably the main reason. My boy was not without his moments of inspired performance and I swear I heard his teammates referring to him as “A freak” due to his sudden inclinations to run past several members of the opposition and score from an impossible angle. My Son The Freak I thought proudly.
This season he is a centre forward in an eleven a side team. You don’t get the ball much when you’re a centre forward in an eleven a side team but he is very happy. He did win a penalty this week and fired a couple across the goal – all very useful but we are yet to see The Freak emerge.
We actually (We!) joined the squad a few games into the season and consequently had no idea that yesterday’s fixture was a minor grudge match. Half way through the second half we took the lead due to a freak free kick going through the legs of their hitherto goliath-like goalkeeper. He cried and we cheered. The anguish spread to the rest of the team, one of whom fouled and then slapped our other centre forward. Wrong choice. He then leapt and pivoted whilst swiftly removing his shirt in the same movement. I am not fluent in the semiotics of football attire and have since learnt that this manoeuvre means I want to knock your block off but not bring dishonour upon the badge of my club. After the game the coach congratulated the boy on the grounds that she would have refrained from taking her top off if someone had slapped her. She is a great coach and somehow brings imagination to a rigorous structured approach. My son is lucky to have found his way into the heart of the team. He says they are good friends after only two games. Indeed, the leaping shirt removing player had greeted me with an “hello Arthur’s dad” from the touch line before kick off and after the game I struggled to find a good line in why he should not have tried to knock the block off the member of the opposition who had slapped him. The sight of all the parents piling onto the pitch, one mother bundling up her son with the primal scream of a simple “noooooooooooo” had been the nearest I’ve been to being in a Mike Leigh film and yet I failed to find the script for myself as the avuncular newcomer who spread a message of peace through the under twelve football world. Oh well its training today so you never know.