Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Football, football, football

Here's a thing for The Thing Is magazine, to accompany this article, an interview with "BT futurologist Ian Pearson".

In 2050, apparently, we'll all be old, degrees will be worthless and robots will play football.
And talking of footballing machines: I am one.
I have joined a football team. Not a likely move for me, as before last week I'd only played once since 1996. That one time was a battle between two student houses which I had to sit out from after five minutes as I'd turned green with the overexertion. Back in 1996 though, aged 12, my skills (along with my football knowledge) peaked. I was good, then. Captain of my school team and everything. Since I've got steadily worse, but somehow my self-belief has barely waivered.
Our first game was last Wednesday. I'd found out about the team, Abcde FC, the day before from Welsh James, a team mate from my last game who obviously clocked my potential that fateful day. I spent the next day panicking: we're not kids anymore, technically. James said you only need one thing to play: not a basic level of health, dedication or a drop of ability but shin-pads. That's when I knew it was serious stuff.
On the Wednesday it was raining horribly and it was cold. As I sat on the bus to deep dark South East London, my shiny new Sondico Pro Armour pads protruding from my thin black ankle socks, I began to get really scared. I'm just a cartoonist, not a grown-up amateur sportsman with the associated tattoos, scars and comfort in using crude language.
When I arrived I walked, as instructed, round the side of East Dulwich's big Sainsburys and listened out for the shouts and whistles. As I was introduced to the team, my team, I was relieved to discover that they were all as unsporty as me: of our team of of eight, only one already owned shinpads (clearly this is the best judge of a footballer. Someone should have told Steve McClaren. Eh!).
We got changed in a rickety shelter constructed from corrugated iron. It was so backstreet and makeshift it was almost exactly like Fight Club, with me in the Meatloaf role.
As found the other team and introduced ourselves to their manager, suddenly we were intimidated. A manager? They've got a manager? "Ah, but...", we said, "do they have shin pads?" They did have of course, along with full matching kits.
The game wasn't too painful in the end. We really would have benefited from a goal keeper, but we did alright. As it was we took turns in a Monkey Rush style, which didn't help in shaking our schoolboy appearance. My contributions were:

  • winning a free-kick by falling over in my own half
  • one good kick (which turned out to be illegal)
  • encouragingly shouting out all the football-y phrases I know ("mark 'em up, mark 'em up", "square ball", "and the rest")

In the end it was 6-1. 4-0 by half time, and then 2-1 in the second half. I was disappointed to discover there is no third half, since by logical extrapolation we'd have won that.
Having made such negligible contributions to my new team I endeavoured to secure my place in the squad for any further games by designing a logo for the team. Everyone knows if you do the logo, you're automatically selected for the team. That's why [insert the name of a footballer who repeatedly gets inexplicably selected] is always in the [and the relevant team name here] fc squad!

The rain cloud remembers the stormy conditions of our first game, and perhaps our drizzly future prospects, whilst the yellow swirls that look like sperm echo the curling shots we one day hope to be pulling off (no really, it's not sperm).
The next game is tonight, in 2 hours in fact, and apparently we have no substitutes so I'll be playing for the full forty minutes. It may not be pretty.

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