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.
Final score: 2-6.