Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Maybe I'm not a shit ref after all

Game 13, 2016-17

A game where nothing remotely controversial happened, and that was exactly the game I needed just over 24 hours after being threatened with a broken neck.

I'm refereeing a boys U15 cup tie, first round.  These lads are fit and fast, but they're also playing a compressed game, trying to spring the offside trap. This means lots of running for me as I not only have to keep up with a game that flows in both directions, but I'm trying to straddle the final line of defence to get the offside calls right.

So I run my ass off, and although the game's only 70 minutes long, it's another humid evening where the hard running makes it feel like I'm in a gratifying race to get back in to the whistling groove. The longer the match goes on without protests from either on or off the field, the more I can feel my brain and body becoming re-infused with self-assurance. "Maybe I'm not a shit ref after all," goes through my head.

There's just one squeak of dissent, from a pubescent home defender after the away striker has yet again slipped past their broken offside trap and finished. "Clearly offside," he mutters. "Clearly a good goal," I mutter back as I note down the scorer's number and the time of the goal, resisting the temptation to add, "And clearly crap defending." That's the end of the discussion.

Alternative pleasures to football
The away team plays in a higher division and tears the home side apart with some nice passing football, even using an out-and-out left winger who teases and terrifies the opposing right-back. The night ends with smiles and handshakes, and not a single question about a single decision. The waxing moon is a beautiful pallid pink, and on the other side of the park the kinetic, poly-hued lights of the fairground's revolving rides showcase a field of alternative pleasures. It only took me a day to become besotted with football again.

Final score: 2-6.

You can support this blog by buying Ian Plenderleith's latest book, The Quiet Fanhere.

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