Monday, 14 November 2016

The raging of the TWAT with Touchline Tourette's

Game 25, 2016-17

I'm warming up next to the two teams on a chilly but still Sunday lunchtime, and already the crowds are gathering. Not fans, but Egyptian Geese. They've occupied the tops of the floodlight pylons and are making an urgent racket, honking and squawking off-key songs and cranky calls. One of them dive-bombs an innocently stretching player on the home side, much to the delight of his team-mates.

An Egyptian Goose contests an offside
 decision (picture: Harvey van Diek)
Christ only knows what these invasive, aggressive creatures are so excited about. I doubt it's the prospect of 90 minutes of level-nine football between two men's reserve teams. I go back into my changing room to deal with the pre-match paperwork and by the time I've come back out, they're gone. There must be a more attractive fixture in another part of town.

No worries, though, because they have an able replacement in the Totally Wacko Arsehole on the Touchline (TWAT). There's always one. Today he's a member of the away team's entourage, and it's apparently his job to loudly contest my decisions. His two main contributions to the afternoon's entertainment are to yell, "Referee!" on unfavourable calls, and "Offside!" every last time the home team plays a through ball of any description.

It would make sense to point out to TWAT that he might be better focused on coaching his team,
rather than yelling at the ref. His side's defence is a shambles, and by half-time they're 5-0 down. The home team has also struck the woodwork three times. None of these incidents are related to any one of my refereeing decisions.

The game is otherwise quite uncontroversial. Although there are a fair number of fouls, and the away team's efforts to score end in continuous frustration, there is none of the common nastiness. In fact it's one of the most sporting games I've reffed all season. Players are continuously helping each other to their feet, chatting during stoppages, and even laughing about the odd incident or two. Maybe there's a pre-Trump sensitivity in the air - the world's about to become a scarier place, so we should be a little more civil to each other.

A TWAT with Egyptian Goose Syndrome
This doesn't apply to the TWAT, though, who is incensed throughout. In the second half, his calls for Offside! become increasingly fantastical because he's now between 40 and 70 yards away from his team's defensive line. Perhaps he's suffering from an as yet undiagnosed, football-related medical condition called Touchline Tourette's. Symptoms include involuntarily shrieking at match officials over the course of a Sunday afternoon. Otherwise known as Egyptian Goose Syndrome.

I don't know what the TWAT looks like because I did not once look in his direction. It's a mistake to encourage these choleric half-wits by granting them even the slightest attention. I'd once have gone over to have a word, and probably warned him about his behaviour, and maybe even ordered him off. But I can't be arsed with the drama. I no longer give a toss about the TWATs. If they want to damn themselves through their sociopathic conduct, why should I interfere?

After the final whistle, I thank the home coach for his team's sporting behaviour. He agrees that it was a "pleasant" game. The geese might not have agreed - that's probably why they sought their entertainment elsewhere, leaving only their human cousin behind to rage at the referee and the vagaries of the rolling ball.

Final score: 6-0 (three yellow cards)

Ian Plenderleith's next book, 'The Quiet Fan', will be published by Unbound in 2018. Click here to pre-order an e-book or paperback copy.

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