Tales from a Soccer Sideline: 2020

 

“I’m devastated, 2020 was going to be his first year to be graded into a good team,” says soccer mum, India, carefully placing her newly lifted face in her hands so as not to create any wrinkles.  “A hip replacement, can you believe it?”

“Try not to worry India honey, he’s young, he’ll bounce back quickly and be back on that soccer pitch in no time,” soothes her friend Sydney, via collagen lip balloons.

They sit in silence, watching their tiny younger son’s play in the latest technology Protein Infusion® compression wear, and helmets with inbuilt multi-directional Bouncepads® for headers.  The Bouncepad® was the same technology Nokey had tried out in their football boots a couple of years before, which had helped shoot China onto the world stage of soccer (in a deal whereby China supplied the children to manufacture the shoes and the Chinese soccer team would be the first to use the new technology. Chinese children would do anything for soccer, said Nokey’s Marketing Director).

“Yes, I know,” continues India, rearranging her hands to her knees and off her face, deciding it wasn’t a good idea to tempt fate on the wrinkle front. “It’s just, you know, all those years of training – 6 hours a week of development squad when he was 5 years old, all the 4am Crossfit strength and endurance training before school every day, the evening academy’s year round in the freezing snow and the 40 degree temperatures… The Christmases we gave up! The 100 hours a week work I had to do to pay for it all….. For what? A hip replacement at 8 years old.  I can’t believe it.  He’ll never get back to a decent level before the month-long sleep over camp where they assess them for grading…” India cries at the injustice of it all, gently dabbing tears away along her cheekbones – rubbing your eyes was the absolute worst cause of major wrinkling.

“Have you spoken to the club’s doctor? Maybe he has some supplements little Ronaldo can take to get him back in top shape before the grading?” suggests Sydney, careful not to smile in admiration and stretch her lips too much as she sees her wee 2 year-old scissor-kick then roundhouse a goal from the other end of the pitch.Baby playing football

 “Oh yes, absolutely, he’s got a full regime ready to go as soon as I give him the go ahead,” nods India.  “Thank goodness all that’s allowed because we’re still at the junior, amateur, volunteer club-run stage of soccer.”

“Good.  Oh look!” Sydney points toward a mother, who dared wear a tracksuit to a sporting event and is kneeling down cuddling her son.  “There’s that silly hippy who still believes sport is for fun! Ha!”

 

 

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Oliver Octopus and the Soccer Dilemma

Oliver Octopus storms off the field

Giving the ball a good angry peg

He is all crazy and cranky at soccer today

Because arms don’t work as well as their legs

blue ring octopus

Oh yes, he has eight, and you’d think that’s enough

But, as all of his friends always say

An arm has a hand and not nearly the strength

Of a foot in a boot during play

 

His blue rings burn bright in his firey anger

And everyone nudges away,

Because, although he looks pretty and beautiful

If you touch him you can call it a day

 

“Yo Oli!” yells Annie Anenome,

Waving glamorous red arms in the air

“I hear you, my friend, I’ve only arms too,

Plus my bottom’s stuck down, so unfair!”

 

“What about me,” cries Lawrence the Limpet

“You all whinge about too many arms,

But at least you don’t have only one slimy foot

And are as slow as a sloth on a palm”

 

“Oh I know,” says Oliver Octopus

“It’s so lovely you both understand,

But though using hands is allowed in fish soccer

These hands can’t thump balls like feet can.”

 

Slowly his 60 blue rings fade away,

As Oliver is calmed by his friends.

They all bask in the sun in the shallow rock pools

Just below Bilgola Bends

 

The next day comes round, it’s the Rock Pool World Cup

Oliver looks at his arms with great shame

Lacing stud-mittens on eight floppy hands

He doesn’t want to go to the game.

 

Blue rings start to glow in unhappiness

When along slides Stanley Starfish

“What’s wrong with you, sorry old sucker?

Playing soccer? Today that’s my wish!”

 

“Come on,” says Stanley in his don’t-argue way

Grabbing Oliver, a ball and some tea

“We’ll play right up here on this nice flat rock ledge.

Now you dribble the ball over to me.”

 

As he stands there a-waiting, his arms on his hips

Oliver wonders what on earth that he means

A dribble is something old Lawrence might do

With his foot, his slime-making machine

 

“It’s easy”, says Stanley flicking his hands

“Especially for ones such as us,

You see having good arms means that one’s good at dribbling

We can take it around just like thus”

 

And Oliver watches in pure amazement

As Stanley takes the ball from one end

He flicks it and flacks it between all of his arms

And right into the goal it is penned

 

“You see, my good friend, we play smart with our arms

Not hard like those crabs in their boots,

We can cleverly manoeuvre the ball on the pitch

Up sidelines, and passing to shoot.”

 

“And watch this – pass the ball please,”

So Oliver Octopus does

Stanley jumps up, a star jump we’ll say,

And blocks that ball, all arms a-buzz  

 

“So go, my good friend and win that World Cup!”

And our Oliver, he does comply

That soccer ball is his, the entire tricky game

The opposition were really fish fry

 

“You see,” says the Starfish, his arms round his mate

“You don’t have to be the goal shooting star,

Everyone’s important in a team game like this

And you were the best by far!”

 

Oliver comes out glowing, but not with blue rings,

“Boy that ball you really know how to dispatch!”

Said the opposition, shaking hands as they left the field

And Oliver is made man of the match!

 

 

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #2

“It’s just really important to Sam,” enthuses Marsha with a look of utter distress on her face about the whole situation, whilst simultaneously checking Facebook. “Soccer is a huge passion for him and he really looks up to the coach, sees him as the most important thing in his life during the soccer season – oh my gosh, Carolyn’s at it again with her status updates complaining about having no help at home, bor-ring….If no one else is doing it for you, get off Facebook and do it yourself woman,” mimics Marsha as she swipes Carolyn off the screen in disgust.  

“You know,” continues Marsha, back to the important topic of soccer, “when their coach doesn’t turn up, not only does the team fall apart during the game, but the boys don’t feel like they’re worthy of their “esteemed” coach’s time,” she sighs, withdrawing her French polished fingernails back to their phone typing.     soccermumsbagcoach

“Hmm,” agrees Beverly, mother of the star striker of the team. She’d not been happy since the beginning of the season when her division one son had been relegated back a level to division two. “This is what happens in the lower divisions, it’s just rubbish, no one commits, no one cares.  I think I’ll talk to the club director about it. See if they can give us a new coach – one who actually has the team winning as their top priority.  When he does turn up to coach he’s too soft, like they’re just there to run about and have a giggle.  Perhaps we can pay a coach?  Volunteers just don’t work.”

Marsha looks at her watch.  It looks so out of date now, she must get herself one of those hot new Marc Jacobs’ timepieces.  “Five minutes late again. This is just ridiculous, where’s the man’s commitment, I ask you?”

“Exactly.  It might as well be us out there coaching them,” spits Beverly angrily.  “We turn up with our kids on time, we put in all this effort when we could be at home in the warmth, feet up, watching I’m A Celebrity –”

“Oo, do you think Shane Warne will win?” asks Marsha getting excited.

“For sure – Oh, here he is, FINALLY!” says Beverly loud enough for them to hear in the next suburbs’ training grounds.

But coach Tim doesn’t hear the women.  His mind is still back in that hospital with his little girl fighting the whooping cough ravaging her tiny body.  On his wife who is falling apart and on his boy, slinking along beside him who is suffering on all fronts as his family dances with death.  He gives his little Matthew a hug as they walk up to the waiting team. His wife had said it would be good to get fresh air, try and do life as normal for a while.  Him and Matthew had missed last week’s game when their baby girl had been rushed to the Children’s Hospital – maybe a run around with his mates and a bit of his beloved soccer will make him forget for just a small while. He tries to remember how to smile: “How are my boys? I heard you played an awesome game last week, lots of great passing and marking, well done, high five!  I was really upset I missed it…”

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #1

I DIDN’T GET THE AWARD FOR SPORTSMANSHIP!” he spits at his mother, devil-red in the face, smoke pistonning from his nostrils. The 9 year old striker’s fists begin to crack closed forcefully, his tiny brain struggling to makes sense of it all, teeth grinding in fury.

“Yes, I was watching the award ceremony,” responds his mother, also seething with disgust.

He starts up again: “Little -”

“Now Brutus, darling, remember we don’t use the F word in public places like this, it doesn’t look good,” says Mother, ever responsible.  “I’ll talk to Ben Botson about it. Someone must have been in his ear.”  She walks out of the Man Untied clubhouse, confident in her promise. ‘Cheats’, she thinks – ‘the kid and the club director.

“I wanna smash that dumbass,” rages on the tall, wiry boy, possibly lacking in a wide vocabulary.  “How many goals did he get, huh? huh? He can’t tackle to save his life.  A back, a defender, who wants to be a stupid defender,” he wobbles his head in mockery, striding  after his mother, the usual two metre distance between them she keeps.  

“‘Pass, pass,’ he screams like a girl – no way I’m passing the ball to him, I’m the only one who can kick goals in that whole team. Sportsmanship – can’t play sport to save himself…” He kicks at a rock, his superb goal-kicking foot hitting the gutter instead, making him near explode. “Few teeth on the shoulder in a close tackle oughtta let him know who the winner really is,” he mutters.   

Mother smiles to herself, lowering her Lycra top neckline in readiness to see Ben. So competitive was her little Brutus.  Such a great quality to have – she couldn’t have written it into him if she’d tried.  But she’ll just be right up there and making sure that Director knows exactly who their family is:  Soccer royalty is who, an A grade player since he was 5, training with a personal coach four times a week even back then. He is lucky to have Brutus in his club.  No one forgets her children. No one. Brutus will be making international soccer headlines one day, just like his hero, Luis Suárez.

LuisSuarez

Suárez showing the true extent of his skill in the 2014 World Cup

This is a practice piece in writing character’s, and is the first in a series using the soccer season I’m about to be kicking around in.  I have never met Brutus, nor Shazza his Mother, they purely a figment of my nightmares. Luis Suárez, however, is a real life adult experiencing teething.   

Kicking goals

In this big wide world, there was once a little boy who was crippled with shyness all the early years of his life. While his friends were climbing trees and playing on swings, this little boy would cry behind my legs, with an intense fear of being social. In later years, it would be suggested at school that we seek outside help for his confidence issue.

But, he loved kicking balls. Just as he was about to walk for the first time, he swung his leg forward and kicked a ball – then took a step. We took him to a kid’s sports class, in the hope that if he was kicking the ball he would forget he was in a social situation. Slowly we got there. 

Every single afternoon since he could walk, he has been out in the backyard, kicking that ball.

As he grew older, he began to play lunchtime soccer at school.  His confidence took a sudden leap.  His personality shone through, and the kids at school saw he was funny and clever, just as we have always known. He made a good circle of friends and laughed all the time.

He worked his way up to one of the top soccer teams for his local club.  He practised and did more training, and made up soccer games if there were enough kids hanging around: Wherever he could, he kicked that ball. The praise was constant.  Another club wanted him for their top team. This year, his plan was to play for his school – that is all he talked about. I was proud of him for striving so confidently toward a goal.  Of not being frightened anymore.

But, as I looked at him when he got in the car on the afternoon of the trials, all I could see was sadness and shame. He did not get in to the school team.

Later, he sobbed, something boys his age try not to do. And so did I.  I felt like I was losing the young man who had worked so hard toward living a simple life of childhood joy. All those years of self-confidence was being poured into a tissue. Shame is an emotion no child should have to bare.

The only way to take this, was as a lesson.  We made it as black and white as possible – he is a good soccer player, and he should not doubt that.  We wrote down all the things which told us he was a good soccer player. He remembered the specific words of coaches, and parents, and friends. We talked about how he could use this lesson to make him strive harder to attain the next level up in his soccer. And how this, was unfortunately just one of those things.

After he’d wiped away his tears for the last time, he looked at me and said: “Mum, I just wanted to play more soccer.”

kicking goals

I thought, am I looking at this in the wrong way?

The point seemed to be not that his self-confidence was smashed. Of course, being good at soccer gives him self-confidence.  And yes, he was embarrassed in front of his friends when his name was not called out for the team.

But, he was showing himself as strong enough to not place lingering importance on that feeling. He was being brave enough to let it pass, to not give shame any of his precious time. To know that his friends still thought he was funny and clever.  That this was just one of those things. And he could wallow, or he could get on with finding some other way of playing more soccer.  

Because he loves playing soccer. And when you do something you love, you want to be the best at it. And, setbacks can be good, because they can make you realise that it really does matter to you that you play more soccer – get better at it, learn more, immerse yourself more in something that gives your life passion and lots of big fat oomph!

It left me asking if my own passion for writing and this journey toward being a fabulous authoress is as impenetrable as my son’s is for soccer. Can I kick these hurdles in the backside like my nine year old has just done? Can I be that grown up? Can I be that fearless in the face of inevitable criticism?

The next day my beautiful, brave boy wrote some words for a debate.  “I love school more than holidays because I get to play soccer with my friends, and I also get to try harder at my soccer at lunchtimes so I will get into the school team next year.” 

He said it front of his whole year.