Man On —

17 09 05

A glorious golden early autumn day in Clissold Park, H running, D at tennis, and I’m sweating on a bench having amused myself for an hour with a football and a traffic bollard. The bollard was the corner flag, then it was the near post, then the last defender. I didn’t often get close to it but once or twice I hit it hard and it wobbled. It never fell over. Traffic bollards are very stable and – this is the clincher – I’m not very good at football. I do my keepy-uppies, and I’ve even started an after-work kick-about, in which I’ve managed to get very out of breath, a bit muddy and a little bruised, and on one occasion I got slight concussion when I didn’t move my head out of the way quickly enough and it was hit by a hard, fast ball accurately kicked by a stocky, fit, young man. It made a very strange pinging noise that was only partly the ball. It was mainly the sound of the inside of my head shaking. I’d never heard that sound before. Once I passed a good straight ball to a guy who directly scored a goal from it. In contemporary parlance this is referred to as an assist.

My greatest attribute as a footballer seems to be the ability to clatter into people. Sometimes it wins me the ball and, if that happens, I might make a useful pass. My basic technique here is to run towards someone with a ball as fast as I can. the other guy, naturally distracted by thought of impending collision, often loses concentration momentarily and just as I reach him I try to touch the ball with one of my feet. This is known as tackling. If I fail to touch the ball it is called a foul. Right up until the last moment no one knows which it’s going to be, least of all me. The bollard stood up to me pretty well but I suspect I left it with a little concussion. It’s probably writing its diary right now.