To fill our days until the re-start of the 2015/16 ASB Premiership we’re revisiting some of the best material from this season’s issues of The Range, our match day magazine.
A Game By The Sea – Football Dad
A cold, wet and slimy piece of tomato slapped into the back of Football Dad’s neck.
“Yuck!” bleated Short Podgy Kid. “Mum knows I don’t like tomato but she keeps putting it on my sam’iches.”
A second slice of tomato emerged from the back of the car, followed a curving flight path between the two front seats and landed on the large volume knob on the Blaupunkt car stereo.
“Shooootttt!” screeched Winey Know-It-All. “You nailed it!”
“Yeah, boyyyyeeeee!” replied Short Pudgy Kid, bellowing at the top of his voice and kicking the back of Football Dad’s driver’s seat. “Told you I would hit it!”
The annual pre-season match with Small Seaside Town FC had been a tradition at the club for three decades. Football Dad was not a fan.
It was meant to be a turn-about exercise in which one team would drive the 57.2 km over the hill to face the opposition. For the last three years, Small Seaside Town FC had “struggled a bit finding road-legal vehicles to transport the kids,” according to the junior convenor.
So Football Dad, coach of the 11th Grade team – tradition dictated all grades clash, but it was mainly the older kids – had to take a team across. Again. For the third year in a row.
“If you could keep your tomato to yourself, that would be marvellous,” Football Dad asked politely but firmly, wiping the soggy slice from the back of his neck. “Don’t think your mother would approve of you tossing it around my car.”
Seven kids jammed into the Anonymous Japanese People-Mover, the Youngest One in the front with her father. “Bit wet over there,” she observed dryly, pointing to the large dark grey crowd dumping rain on Small Seaside Town, 20km away in the distance, down the hill.
“Awesome!” bellowed Short Podgy Kid, enthusiastically leaning forward between the two front seats and staring straight at Football Dad. “The pitch will be really muddy so we will get really filthy! Whoop whoop!”
“Ewwwww…” muttered Skinny Prissy Girl. “Yuck.”
“Worried your flash pink Nike boots might get dirty?” goaded Whiney Know-It-All. “Fail!”
Football Dad felt the back wheels slide on some gravel around a tight bend. The People-Mover shuddered as he braked.
Raj From India piped up from the back row of the seats: “Mister, mister…I feel like I’m going to be sick.”
More tomato whizzed through the car, this time travelling backwards through the car. Raj From India copped it square in the forehead, from where it slid down on to his notes. He gagged, reached for the electric window button, and leaned his head out of the car.
“Mister we need to stop please,” he asked, gagging a second time.
Football Dad slammed on the anchors off a bend, careering onto the roadside grass. The car had barely come to a halt, a moment later, when Raj From Indian sprung forth from the vehicle, sprawling to the ground.
Football Dad yanked at the handbrake, and leapt from the car. A football came flying out of the door, followed by another. The second hit Football Dad in the shoulder as Raj From India chundered into a small ditch.
Having been delayed by 20 minutes by Raj From India’s motion sickness, Football Dad’s van screeched into the car park at Small Seaside Town FC with kick-off less than quarter of an hour away.
The kids were piling out of the van before it had actually come to a complete stop.
Football Dad surveyed Small Seaside Town FC’s well-worn home track. It was known colloquially across the federation as “The Rocky Dunny”.
Perched on a tiny isthmus poking out from the town’s main street, it sloped noticeably toward the ocean side. About 150 metres across the water – the entry to the small harbour – the town’s sewage main discharged into the water. The prevailing wind from the ocean blew the smell right across the football field.
Hence, “The Rocky Dunny”.
Raj From India took one lungful of the foul air, dropped his bag, doubled over, and stumbled into a nearby Port A Loo.
Small Seaside Town FC’s coach bustled up to Football Dad, resplendent in bright red Adidas trackpants and the only officials’ jacket the club had ever managed to finance….in 1987. It was meant to be a Rugby World Cup 1987 memorial edition, but a mis-stitching debacle at the manufacturers ensured Small Seaside Town FC had picked them up for a fiver each, and paid an additional $10 for a patch with the club’s logo to be sewn over the error.
“Maaaate! Welcome!!!” hollered Seaside Town FC’s coach. “Bloody hell, ya made it! Thought for a while there you’d gone off the road on the incline! I’m Aubrey, but the kids call me ‘Coach’. Ya’d never pick it, would ya!”
A fat orange had extended forward enthusiastically. With reluctance, but an acute sentence of politeness, Football Dad shook the man’s huge mitt. A handshake more like a vicegrip, scrunching Football Dad’s fingers.
“10 minutes ‘til kick off,” noted Seaside Town FC’s coach, about-facing with military precision and marching off to a group of vaguely-uniformed children taking turns chopping each other down well after the ball had moved on. “You lot, fall in! Shooting practice in t-minus one minute!”
Football Dad rounded up his charges.
“The pitch is sloped,” remarked one.
“What’s the smell?” asked a second.
“Am I goalie?” queried a third.
“And if he’s goalie, I must be striker!” demanded a fourth.
The rancid air made Football Dad gasp: “Usual formation…” he spluttered, “4-4-2.”
Raj From India began bashing on the back of the Port A Loo’s door. Short Pudgy Kid was leaning against it, casually doing up his boots.
“Whateva…” he muttered, deliberately wasting time as his team mate hollered for fresh air.
Football Dad looked back across to the ocean, peering into the distance. From the corner of his eye, he spotted a medium-sized wave lapping at one corner of the pitch. The corner flag – actually a broom handle with triangular rag stapled to it – was barely a foot away from the 3 foot drop to the beach. A second wave washed onto the pitch.
Seaside Town FC’s coach shouted from the far end of the field.
“Forgot to mention – tide’s coming in! Probably need to kick off soon!”
Half of Small Seaside Town’s population had shown up for the game.
“Cheeeeeeeehooooooo!” screeched a tattooed and patched member of the local bikie gang, swigging from a bottle of home-brew in his left hand.
“Ranginui! Ranginui! What are you doing, you egg? Your team’s goin’ the other way, boy!”
Football Dad looked nervously across at his charges, who were fanning out across the park.
“Remember what we spoke about, kids!” he hollered. “Spreading on attack, compressing on defence. Defenders, looking over your shoulders to see where the opposition attackers are when they press. Touch and pass, touch and pass.”
“Fish and chips if we win by more than two goals!” yelled Seaside Town FC’s coach, a retort of sorts.
Resplendent in khaki shorts, a black Lion Red sweater, and steel-capped boots, the pensioner-come-ref blew a sharp burst on the whistle.
Football Dad’s team created a reasonable opening movement, which led – somewhat astonishingly – to an opening from one of his attackers, the irrepressible Short Fat Kid.
“Hey,” he blurted, having swept past a defender and to the edge of the 18-yard box.
“This ball is flat!” he announced to all and sundry, turning swiftly toward the nearby ocean and kicking it into the long grass no more than a metre from the sideline.
“That, I am afraid… is bull****!” he wailed.
“Oiiiiii!” yelled Football Dad, in as Sargent-Majorly as he could. “Language son, there’s younger kids present. I’ll tell your mother.”
A waft from the town’s sewage discharge pipe drifted across the pitch, aided and abetted by the westerly that blew right up the little harbour.
“Gross, Dad,” remarked the Youngest One to her father. “That smell. That is disgusting.”
She always switched wings at half-time – Football Dad’s rationale was that it “confused the opposition”. Truth was he just wanted her close to him, nearer for instructions that she always followed….but never quite nailed, technically speaking.
The game, of course, had ground to a halt. A shrill blast from the whistle, as the kids looked puzzled. On the opposite sideline, an even larger member of the local bikie gang methodically worked his way through seven or eight tired old footballs – estimated 15 years old.
“Awww, bro,” mourned the gang member. “You’re not gonna believe it coach – they all flat!”
Slowly, with an arc as beautiful as an Andrea Pirlo free kick, his hand moved toward his face.
“Raj,” he muttered to the Indian lad, dropping a perfectly-pressurised near-new Nike ball at his feed. “They need a ball – run this on.”
In the far left-hand corner, a 2-foot wave crashed ashore, centimetres from the corner flag.
Another blast on the whistle from the dishevelled ref, and finally – after the vomiting, the flat balls, the kid stuck in the toilet, and then a flat ball – the annual fixture was underway.
“C’mon red!” yelled Football Dad at his motley bunch. “We have not bloody come here to lose!”
This article is a compilation of the first three contributions from Football Dad, which appeared in the first three issues of The Range for 2015/16.