My Granddad once yielded the best comment on the topic of football. “Why are all these rich players still fighting for possession of the same ball?” he asked, just as Ronaldo put a challenge in on the telly. “Surely, what with the silly money they’re on these days, you’d have thought they could at least afford a ball each”.
Personally I’ve never really understood the fascination with the world’s most popular sport. Nor sport in general for that matter.
I tried to get into watching the Paralympics, but found myself feeling morally uncomfortable. I also couldn’t help but feel guilty in being cynical about the eligibility of certain participants. For instance there was a man with what appeared to be withered hands taking part in the triple jump. I can just imagine how things went down in the changing room that day:
“What’s your disability, matey?” asks the man with the withered hands (we’ll call him Jeremy). “I’ve got no legs” comes the other athlete’s reply.”What about yourself?” “Withered hands” Jeremy sighs. “Huh?” The athlete chokes. “I’ve Got withered hands” Jeremy reconfirms, waiving his withered hands. “withered hands?” the half-man would almost choke. “Are you fucking joking me?”
My own opinion, rightly or wrongly, is that you should only be allowed to play a sport in the Paralympics if your disability makes it REALLY hard/almost impossible to play that particular sport. Otherwise it’s unimpressive and pointless, not to mention shamefully unfair to other contestants. The blind footballers play fair. They’re blind yet they’re playing football. That’s impressive. A snooker team with no arms would be impressive. Or a javelin thrower with no arms. Or a table tennis player with double vision. Or golf players with vibrating hands induced by Parkinson’s disease. That I agree with. I’d happily watch that.
I’m also fiercely opposed to paraOlympians being allowed to have body enhancements/artificial limbs that are more efficient than ACTUAL limbs. Take that runner who had the plastic Spring legs for instance. That’s no different to me losing my arms but then competing in Kayaking after having surgery to attach giant paddles to my stumps. Utterly unacceptable.
Going back to football, I’ve never supported any team, rarely watch matches, and with regards to physical participation, the last time I wore football boots was when playing for an under 15’s amateur team with my mates.
My stepdad was the manager. We were awful.
In goal was my best mate Gazza, who at that time, like me, was one of the shortest lads in our year at school. It didn’t take long for the opposition to realise that all you had to do to lob Gazza was to simply kick the ball at Gazza.
In defence we had Prashant- a young Pakistani kid so stick thin that the local Social Services Team were probably close to forcing him to wear iron shin pads for “health and safety reasons”, just incase his fragile legs should shatter like glass upon contact. Not just contact with a football, either. ANY contact: with a ball, a foot, the wind.
Up front we had some reasonably decent players, but no-one anywhere near decent enough to prevent us losing 10-nil to one of our local rivals one season (winter I think).
Then of course there was myself- Jay Beecher- warming up from the sideline for no other particular reason than to keep warm.
My position was right back. Right back on the bench.
For years I genuinely believed that I was my stepdad’s secret weapon; that the sole reason I was only ever sent on to play for the last 5 minutes was because he knew that I had the ability to pull back some goals. I was unstoppable. A real game changer. It wasn’t until later on however that I finally realised the truth: I was shit. Incredibly shit in fact.
Our football manager sending me on in the ‘final hour’ was simply a declaration that all was lost. The game was over. A bit like how Hitler deployed the Hitler Youth to defend Nazi Germany during the fall of Berlin. He knew full well that it was all over, but fuck it, what harm could it possibly do?
It was upon this realisation that I decided to call time on my football ‘career’. After that I went back to my role as a bored spectator.
The worst thing for a ‘non-player’, and particularly one with extremely poor football skills, is for someone to kick the ball off-pitch and for it to land right next to you. Even today this awkward situation still fills me with dread. Suddenly all eyes fall upon you- the players, the spectators- all staring and wondering “what’s he gonna do with that ball?” And I’m there panicking, thinking “I don’t know WHAT I’m going to do with this ball”. Pick it up? Dust it off with a handkerchief and hand it over to the nearest official?
Another thing that puts the fear of God into non-players is the dull thudding sound of a football being kicked high into the air from somewhere behind us. In this moment of suspense we feel the same sense of foreboding and impending doom that only soldiers in the trenches during ww1, having just heard a mortar round go off overhead, can truly relate to. You just stand there, shoulders raised, hunched forward into a standing, semi-foetal position. ‘That’s got to land SOMEWHERE’, you think, knowing full well that it’s likely to be the back of your head.
There’s only one football match I can honestly say I’ve ever truly enjoyed watching. But that was only because of a stupidly attractive redhead standing on the sideline opposite. The wind was strong and icy cold that day, giving her a powerful nipple erection and any gawping onlooker the impression that ET was trying to claw his way out of her t-shirt.
I’ll be honest; there isn’t much point to me writing any of this down other than to highlight how I’ll never understand man’s fascination with the ‘great game’.
Perhaps I’ll catch up on it all one day if someone buys me the box set for Christmas. But until that day comes I’ll forever be in a state of confusion/complete disinterest.
Meanwhile most lads will literally watch ANY match as though their life depended on its outcome. Poland V Latvia. Sweden V Paraguay. Uzbekistan under 21’s V the Jamaican Reserves…in a friendly.
In fact I’m positive that if Countryfile was on and some little shit accidentally kicked a football into shot, 3 quarters of the male population of Britain would be cracking open a beer and tuning into the fucker. Baffling.