18th March 2020
My Old Future
I loved football. They didn‘t. I was the new student Art and now PE teacher. They were the leftovers after the two proper PE teachers had jogged off with all the footballers.
They wore specs. Or had fringes they couldn‘t see through. They stared elsewhere, wishing they were there. Or down at the pitch wishing they were under it. They were experts in having to be there and despised for it. They looked at me wondering whether I would turn out to be more bastard or idiot. I looked horribly healthy, which I was. They weren‘t football shapes. Actually some of them were. They didn‘t have the proper kit. They were all bored.
I side-footed a boy a ball and and looking picked-on he looked at it gently bouncing off his shin. After gentle prompting, a little fearful, he explained he thought football was unfair because only people who were good at football were good at it.
I said I thought the problem with football is the ball.
The boys that let this statement change their expressions looked puzzled. ‘Yes, without the involvement of a ball you could be excellent footballers’ converted a few more faces to either puzzlement or suspicious puzzlement. I added that football is ruined by being played with a football. I booted the ball off the pitch and announced we would play without one. A boy giggled.
I chose the giggler. I picked up a football we couldnt see and I couldnt feel, then rubbed it clean on my top, casually skilfully bounced it and caught it a few times then placed it on the penalty spot and went in goal. I asked the giggler to kick the ball he couldn‘t see there that was on the penalty spot past me as stylishly as he could. After a little more encouragement he did. I threw myself across the goal one arm outstretched but it was no good: he’d scored. I picked the ball out of the net, shaking my head.
‘Nice shot,’ I said. ‘I had no chance. You‘re pretty good.’ The lad looked pretty pleased with himself. I said, ‘Lets do celebrating now. You‘ve just scored a great goal. you should really jump about or punch the sky or something.’ He looked interested but unsure.
‘We’ll practice how to celebrate properly later,’ I said. ‘But first well do dribbling.’
I asked two lads their names. I said, ‘Right because you are both brilliant footballers who can do amazing things without the ball, you, Grimes, are going to do some really fancy dribbling and you, Crocker, are going to almost stop him with an amazing tackle but not quite, and after he’s dribbled round you you‘ve got to look really angry, perhaps you could hit the ground in frustration. I’m going to commentate.’
It was the commentating that swung it. ‘Grimes has got the ball. The crowd go quiet. They all know how skilful Grimes is. Wow look at his tricks. Do some tricks then Grimes. Everybody go ooh at the tricks then. Ooooh! Ah but now he’s up against Crocker who’s one of the toughest defenders that’s ever lived. Oh he‘s gone round him. Crocker is furious, he’s livid, he hates to be beaten. Now kick it in the goal Grimes. You can’t miss – it’s an open net.’
When Grimes turned back around from the gaol he was grinning. I warned him not to get big-headed and mentioned to Crocker that actually crying was perhaps overdoing things. Crocker said. ‘But it’s a final sir.’ A lot of boys laughed. As I did; as you did.
About half an hour later we had organised a quite complicated move starting with a throw in followed by a lot of close and long passing and a drama of the goalkeeper pushing the ball onto the crossbar but it being headed back in by a formidable centre forward. This headed climax pleased them lots because heading a heavy speeding sometimes water-logged thick-leathered football bigger than your dad’s head was possibly the thing they hated to have to do most. After the goal the scoring team indulged in some protracted and over-the-top celebrating and the other side in some equally hysterical lamentation. The celebrating was the thing they liked most and they were innovative beyond my hopes. Then we went up the other end and the score after some exquisite interplay was equalled.
It was our happiness that did for us. This lot had never been seen running about except from bullies, and also a couple of lads were nearly pissing themselves with pleasure. One of the proper PE teachers came striding over wanting to know what the hell was happening. I explained that we were at an important moment in the game with the score poised at one all. I’m good at looking as if there is no problem at all when there is.
Well that was that. They put me back in the Art Room. A month or so later I got fed up with Speke Comprehensive
and left without mentioning it between second and third lesson on a Tuesday morning. I stood with the school behind me and took this photo of the view ahead and vowed I was never going to do a proper bloody job ever again.