Ain’t it always the way. You start to get yourself established in your routine, settled into the rhythms of a new season. Then the news that there’s no game this week upends it all, and you’re scrabbling for a plan B to fill the hours of a football-less long weekend.
With no game today for our team due to the first round of the Kelly Cup taking place (Wellington’s women’s knockout cup), I was at a bit of a loose end this afternoon. But since this is Wellington, and I’m an English Literature student, a coffee and a book seemed the logical solution.
As it happened, I came across the following passage in David Mitchell’s number9dream, to which I couldn’t help but respond with a wry chuckle of recognition. It’s uttered by the protagonist Eiji in his childhood:
“And then a fantastic idea comes to me. It is the greatest idea of my life. I am going to train, train, and train, and become such a brilliant soccer player that I will play for Japan on my twentieth birthday against Brazil in the World Cup final. Japan will be eight-nil down in the sixtieth minute, then I will be called on as a substitute and score three hat tricks by the end of injury time. I will be in newspapers and on TV all over the world.”*
How many of us will, hand on heart, admit to having similar fantastic ideas? Let’s be honest here. We’ve all had that moment of epiphany, however fleeting, where you realise that it’s surely your destiny to score an implausible number of goals in an even less plausible time frame on what’s probably the least plausible stage of all. And you vow you’ll do all you can to make your dream possible; you’ll train, train, and train.
And train, train, and train you do. That stepover you schooled your coach with? Cristiano Ronaldo would be drooling over it. That thirty-yard screamer which almost ripped the net? Steven Gerrard’s dialling your number right now to ask for tips on technique. That fingertip save, for the goal keepers among us? Gianluigi Buffon’s already downloaded the footage for analysis.
But at some point life intervenes: injuries, work, study. You might even find that the object of affection you spend most of your time chasing is no longer a ball but, in fact, another human being. And, eventually, you’re past the age you could feasibly be dubbed the next big thing, too old for a professional club to consider picking you up. You realise the nearest you’ll ever get to the World Cup final is how close you get, probably yelling, to the TV screening it.
So then what are you left with? Dreams on the scrapheap, a bitter cynicism and nothing to play for?
The beauty of football, be it competitive or social (and there’s not really much of a distinction once the match starts), is that every game offers the possibility of a good story. The pitch is the stage, the players aptly named. A flick through Enzo’s match reports over the years here will bear this out. There’s the occasional comedy, tragedy, drama aplenty.
And for anyone who lives for their weekly run-out, the night before a game you can’t help but visualise the turns you’ll pull off, the defence-splitting passes you’ll slip in, the goals you’ll score. Or, I suppose, for the more defensively minded (spot the striker here), the tackles you’ll make and the result-preserving blocks you put in. Whether all this happens in the game itself is another matter of course. But such is the beauty of football. It’s fun to dream, and there’s so many opportunities to do so.
Ain’t that always the way.
*Quoted from David Mitchell, number9dream, Sceptre:London, 2001. p. 67.
Categories: Diary of a Social Footballer
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.