Monday, 22 January 2018

Saluting Harry, the amateur leagues' mental monster

Game 30, 2017-18

There's always a Harry, isn't there? He's one of the senior players on the team, and he plays in central defence. In this country - if he was good enough to be an active professional in the first division - the football press would adoringly label him a "monster of mentality".

Not Harry, but a Harryesque
tackle (pic N. Lotze)
As it happens, Harry's mainly just a mental monster in the amateur reserve leagues. He's absolutely uncompromising in the tackle. He never holds back when there's a challenge to charge into. He seeks out the ball like it's an incoming missile, and he's the last shield that will prevent it from causing wholesale destruction. Once intercepted, it doesn't matter where the ball goes, just as long as it's nowhere near his own goal.

As a referee you can pick Harry out, at the very latest, two minutes into the game when he barrels into his first aerial challenge. It might be earlier, however, during the pre-match handshake - he won't look you in the eye as he walks past, but his grip betrays a swift tinge of menace. Harry's sort do not really believe in referees, who are only there to soften up the game. He knows already that I'm out to spoil his day.

That's not the only reason you notice Harry, though. He takes the game by the decibels. He's a highly charged motivator and a highly vociferous moaner. Don't expect to hear from Harry if you do something well, unless it's clattering an opponent. But he'll let you know if you screwed up a pass or
missed an easy chance. "Come ON!!!!" Just what you need to hear as a player when you've made a mistake.

Harry is on the away team this week, and he's randomly but prodigiously banging the ball high into the air and back up-field because that's what he was born to do. That's his job. It's not his concern if it goes out of play or straight through to the home goalkeeper every single time. Leave passing and dribbling to the pretty boys.

"But I was just going for the ball!"
After 40 minutes he goes in illegally on an opponent, right leg stretched forward with his studs showing, just outside his own penalty area. I blow for the free-kick, but because it's a friendly and the player gets straight back up, I don't show Harry the justified yellow card. Before I can even have a word, Harry's letting me know that he severely objects to my call. He got the ball, of course. He even has a lackey on the left side of defence to take over his pleading as the offender flees the scene. "What was that for? What was that for?" Harry's makeshift lawyer demands to know.

This is all part of Harry's system - not just the hard play and the fouling, but the concerted lobbying to make him look like the victim and place some doubt in the referee's head. There's another incident in the second half - he appeals for an offside and a hand ball almost simultaneously, and when I don't give either it's a cue for him to gesture and write me off as a hopelessly incompetent waste of a whistle. First I missed the offside and then, can you fucking believe it, the handball as well! You can hear him in the bar already, regardless of the result. "The fucking ref was useless today, eh?" Yep, Harry. Catastrophic. Where do they get 'em?

In the 85th minute Harry gets in a tangle and then a minor scuffle with an equally irascible opponent. The idiot ref takes them to one side, gives them a short lecture on stupidity, and shows them both the yellow card. "Yeah, sure, okay," says Harry dismissively and runs away. Isn't that just the sort of thing a referee would do? Wave a bloody card. Go ahead. Spray perfume on it too for all I care.

A number of players shake my hand at the end and say, "Good game, ref." Harry's not one of them.

I have to admit it. I bloody love players like Harry.

Final score: 2-3 (2 x yellow)

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