Game 22, 2016-17
"And so ends this instalment of The Game of Moans," I announce as I blow the final whistle. The player standing near me starts to laugh. "Heh, sorry about that," he says. "I know it was pretty bad today." I point out that it's always pretty bad. But really I'm just delighted that he laughed - it doesn't happen often enough on the football pitch.
|Gareth and Cristiano setting an example|
- football's just for fun, right guys?
Next I walk up to the home team's left back. A few minutes earlier he'd made a fairly sour comment about me needing glasses. In keeping with the Artur Alt Philosophy of "Hear less, see more", I decided to ignore him. Two weeks ago I'd have pompously show him a yellow card. "Thanks for your touching concern about my eyesight," I say, "but in fact I already wear contact lenses." For the first time all game he cracks a smile too, then shakes my hand.
It was a bit of a knockabout afternoon. While inspecting the pitch before the match, I found the abandoned packaging of an eight inch rubber dildo. I picked it up to take it to the rubbish bin, and passed a group of players waiting outside the changing room, not yet in their kit. "Can anyone tell me which team this belongs to?" I asked, holding it up. Ho ho ho, much laddish chuckling.
Otherwise, though, amateur football is a deeply serious affair. The occasional moments of lightness usually come when some gawky hacker tries the spectacular, like an overhead kick from 30 yards out, and misses the ball completely. Only goals result in smiles. Even at this level, goalkeepers do that thing of pulling off a spectacular save and then chewing out their defence for letting the shot happen at all. You'd think they'd be happy to get the chance to show off their skills.
It will be a challenge, and I won't let it interfere with my running of the game, but for a while I'm going to see where the following approach gets me: "Card less, quip more."
Final score: 2-2 (four yellow cards)