Beautiful Game

I checked. Water, adaptor and pump and set off for the park. As I arrived there was that feeling of reassuring pleasure at the recognition of the others already here. John was missing but only momentarily. His appearance met with delight. We had a confirmed three a side.

The cool breeze took the edge off the warming morning sun. The grass dry and cushion like eased our saunter down to the far end of the park to set up. We discussed how long it had been with lockdown and shared the excitement of anticipation.

  It was a lazy day, no rush, gentle banter as we marked out the pitch with plastic cones Bruce had brought. It should have been jumpers for goalposts but Bart had managed to get a set of small plastic ones used for training. Bonus.

 After a gentle jog we picked teams and considering the increasing heat decided to begin with twenty minutes each way and three touches only and see where that took us. No ferocious tackling, a socially distanced softer approach. A pleasure of stroking the ball around the pitch. Just been lost in the companionship of sharing time with others after the weeks of isolation. The joy of just partaking in a game.

At half time we sat, in silence at first, enjoying our drinks and the pleasant light pungency of the grass. No pressure. In that silence I was back, a child behind the houses where I was brought up. Drawn to the memories of the joy in just playing through summer holidays that seemed to last for ever. Annoyed when called in for dinner. We had proper dinner in the middle of the day then. Gulped down to get back out. Where the games were not based on time but first to ten. Mainly I suppose because no one had a watch. Where we donned the persona of our idols. Usually Celtic versus Rangers. A tricky Jimmy Johnstone on the wing. A solid John Greig at the back.

One summer Steve Campbell’s father brought us a load of sleepers and we built a small stand where our younger brothers and sisters sat and even some mums came to watch.  We lived in a long street with little rivalries between middle and ends. It was strange but the top end always seemed better or maybe that was just because that’s where I lived and that those at the other probably felt the same about where they lived. Nevertheless, we had a street competition that joined us all together. Middles and ends. The following week we did the same thing at the other end of the street. Memories!

Refreshed we began the second half and played with the same joy as the first. The further twenty minutes fired us up and we’ve decided we’ll do the same next week. I never checked if anyone had or has had similar thoughts during or since our game. However on reflection between us we have spent probably over three hundred and sixty years on this earth and are still in love with the beautiful game.