Salam, one and all.
I cannot deny that, when I was a boy, I was hopelessly obsessed with football.
Among the habits I developed during this time, were:
*recreating goals I had seen in my bedroom (to clarify: the recreations took place in my room – few, if any, worthwhile goals had otherwise occurred there to my knowledge);
*drawing stick-man diagrams of goals I had witnessed, either on television or by the team for which I played. (Since I also started out as a goalkeeper (and was somewhat narcissistic) I did detail some of my finer saves as well, though I was certainly no Hasan…);
*arranging my cuddly toys in formation to play out (often frantic) games between chair legs using one of those rubber balls with impossibly high bounceability so appealing to young children – if the placement was just right, it was possible to contrive a shot that would hit both posts a good six or seven times in total, which I assume would be a record were it ever to happen in, er, ‘real’ life…;
*tottering down to the rugby club with my friend Simon, a ball, and a sheet of fixtures he had prepared for the ultimate precursor to ‘Fantasy Football’: we would take it in turns to be goalkeeper/entire-opposing-team, and provide our own commentary as we played out the league games in the manner we felt they should unfold!
There were probably many more examples of cringeworthy, football-related deeds on my part, and one has to wonder what form these might have taken if I have already confessed to football matches with cuddly toys. Years of therapy (read: marriage) and disillusionment at the dismal performance of my own team have helped to dampen my enthusiasm to a more appropriate, balanced level, but it should not be assumed that any of these states of childishness are beyond me, and being the father of two boys is unlikely to help my rehabilitation (I also have high hopes for my daughter Insha Allah…)
Some of the agents provocateurs of my age of football fever were particular comic books, novels and TV series relating to football. I distinctly remember enjoying the sheer amount of football action in the books of Michael Hardcastle (I have no recollection whatsoever regarding plot, but I’m sure there must have been one!) and I have sought to emulate this concentration on the football itself in The Victory Boys. I was also a fan of Roy of the Rovers, especially since in those days I was enjoying a prolonged flirtation with Liverpool FC, whose then player-manager Kenny Dalglish seemed to me the real Roy Race.
My favourite comic book, however, was the Football Picture Story Monthly series. Why, oh why, is there not an equivalent series now? Even speaking as a teacher, I would love to get my hands on some of those books (and dearly wish I’d kept my own…) as it doesn’t take a skilled detective to know that the majority of boys love football, and comic books do not carry the same level of commitment as even a short novel – perfect, then, for the reluctant reader.
However, my favourite football novels of the day (and remember, this is before the day of High Fidelity-the-book, never mind the hugely disloyal film of the same name – the romance of football ruined by the romance of romance!) were definitely, without a shadooo of a dooot: Jossy’s Giants.
For those who haven’t seen it, Jossy’s (Glipton) Giants are a team of one-time losers who are transformed by the inspirational figure of Joswell “Jossy” Blair, whose own career was curtailed before it had truly begun, let alone blossomed. From the pen of the renowned darts commentator Sid Waddell, the books are written with more than a little humour and enough match action to satisfy the young football devotee.
A very tough act to follow, in my humble opinion!