Monday, 6 March 2017

Dealing with a "fucked up" groundsman

Game 39, 2016-17

Beach football, anyone?
Grey, gruff and prone to complaining at the slightest provocation - that's your average groundsman. It's advisable, nonetheless, to stay on his good side. He has the key to your changing room and can, say, adjust both the heating and the water temperature. It's best to keep in with him by lending a sympathetic ear to his low grumblings about the mud and mess that teams always leave behind, and about why the government hasn't yet sent in elite armed unites to tackle and annihilate the city's mole population.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to stay calm in the face of their cussedness, idleness and all-round inefficiency. Yesterday's game was scheduled for the grass field, but when I arrive I find that the grass field has been cordoned off in favour of the cinder pitch. The lines are badly marked, and the cinder hasn't been levelled out since the last game. It's just about playable, but it's in a lumpy, shitty state. On the way back to the club house I inspect the closed-off grass pitch. It's in perfect condition.

The whole time that I'm inspecting both pitches, the groundsman just stands watching me. I'm pissed off, but I don't say anything.  As I walk past him back to my changing room, he reads my mind (or, more likely, my expression) and begins to justify the choice of the cinder pitch for today's game. He seems keen to have a conversation, so I tell him that the cinder pitch is a disgrace, and that the grass pitch is 100 per cent playable. He refutes this with the bumptious aggression of a man not used to contradiction.

While he's talking I walk into my changing room and slam the door shut. This ignites a new wave of anger and he stands outside the door ranting and raving about my conduct and asking me who the hell I think I am. Hey, I'm just the idiot ref who has to run up and down your abortion of a pitch for 90 minutes.

Looks like someone's
fucked up on
white lines. 
The home team is a temporary tenant until their own ground has undergone renovation. The captain's tried to talk to the groundsman, but has also come to the conclusion that it's a waste of time because he's "fucked up". Together with the away captain, we agree to make the best of it, despite a harsh wind, squalls of rain and a surface apparently prepared by truffle hogs on commission.

This short summit of solidarity at the expense of the groundsman leads, at least by the standards of this league, to a surprisingly sportsmanlike game played through showers, savage gusts, happy dabs of sunshine and, eventually, a rainbow. By half-time, the lines have almost completely disappeared. In the 88th minute there's a flare-up between two players, but as the result's already beyond doubt I just blow for full-time and the players' team-mates tell them to stop being arseholes.

The groundsman keeps me waiting in the cold for a few minutes before he comes to unlock my changing room door. On my way out he pointedly says, "Goodbye." Maybe it's the wind or the rudeness filter on my hearing aids, but just as he can't be arsed to prepare a decent pitch, I can't be arsed to respond.

Final score: 0-4 (one yellow card)

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