Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Flaming Flamingoes!

Stories are all works of fiction. Names, characters, place and events are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events and places is totally coincidental

They were kicking us good and proper. The fouls came at us relentlessly. Every time we were a goal up, it got worse and I got worried. The only one amongst us not particularly intimidated by this was Sol the centre half who gave back as good as he got. It only made things worse for the rest of us.

I was looking for worthy opponents to play against whilst we were waiting for the crucial match against Monarchs. Someone suggested we go play sets as a unit and told us about a particular part of town where we could drop in to, wait our turn and then see how long we last out there. Stupidly, without checking it out first, I took us there. Now, hindsight as they say, is twenty twenty vision, I was wishing we weren't here. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt and I had a feeling it would not be any of the guys we were playing against.

We'd easily knocked out two previous teams within twelve minutes of arriving and were beginning to get cocky and complacent. You see, the way sets work is this and these are just the basic ground rules as I understood. The first people to arrive will divide into two teams or a team will arrive and the people at the ground who want to play will put a team together to play the away side. Usually, as better players arrive at their home ground, they will replace the weaker players and gradually get stronger. A team gets knocked out and another one replaces them if they concede by more than two clear goals, another team then replaces them, usually, the new team ends up being a mish-mash of the previous guys and the latest  arrivals, who are usually the most skillful players. Others are just big scary fellows who nobody can dare not pick. 

Knocking out the previous teams in under twelve minutes seemed like a record of some sort and before long the pitch was surrounded by spectators cheering both sides. Word had spread and the better players emerged and were quickly absorbed into the opposition. At the same time that they were getting stronger, we were beginning to tire. The third team we played went down 1-3 to us, it took us over forty minutes and loads of pain to beat them, we took a rest while the next team organised themselves. 

I was already trying to figure out an exit strategy from the middle part of the last match after eavesdropping on the people behind my goalposts, the overall vibe was changing and the situation started to become tense. Somebody was taking bets on the game and the news filtered through to me somehow. This jackass had obviously decided to be an enterprising bookmaker, he had now become a smart ass, I could now hear him selling his bets.

My team mates during this break were excited, they hadn't experienced this level of attention before and when I dropped a hint about wrapping it all up so we could get out of there, I was quickly overruled. I didn't tell them about the gambling. Someone is bound to bet against us, and if we win they wouldn't be very happy about losing their money which may result in complications. Always an optimist, I kept my concerns to myself and we went back on.

The lads we were facing knew each other and it quickly became obvious they were the best players around, they also seemed much bigger than us. They quickly scored against us with a blatant offside nobody noticed happened, least of all, the scared looking referee. The section of the grounds that cheered the goal the most, had in their midst, some of the scariest looking people you could ever meet. I didn't object to the offside goal, in fact I was a little relieved it was allowed. Etemeke my fleet footed friend was targeted and chopped mercilessly several times by this other guy who didn't like the way the crowd cheered whenever a dribble or some skillful move made him look clumsy. He was a big guy and the "who you looking at?" look he was giving the referee made the man not even look in his direction.

Despite all his troubles, Etemeke had to go and score, levelling the game. The goal was exceptional, it was greeted by hand claps by those who see real art in soccer. Despite my misgivings about scoring, I couldn't help clapping from between the sticks. Cheers and smiles from our new fans, scowls of anger from the gangsters. They were gangsters, one came up behind me as I was clapping and slapped the back of my head hard, I turned just in time to see him disappear back into the crowd. Mr "who you looking at?" looked like he was half instructing and half threatening the referee. Obviously a local man, the ref really looked stressed and defeated. We were on our own.

They were now openly committing fouls on us with impunity. I got an elbow in the face while punching out a ball. The next time the guy ran toward me with the ball, I used the heel of my boots to scrape his shinbones from the knees all the way to his ankles, he screamed, I played dumb but it didn't work. The ref gave them a penalty to appease them, they scored and went back into the lead. By now, things were getting so rowdy we all wanted it over, at the same time we knew it was too dangerous to leave as winners because the gangsters had money to collect if we lost, so winning the game was out of the question.

The cross came, floating as if in slow motion. I made a grab for it about a yard outside the keeper's box, landed firmly on the balls of both feet and waited as the players dispersed themselves back into the field of play, waiting for the customary kick out. With the ball at the end of my outstretched arms, I swivelled around and volleyed the ball straight between my goalposts. You could have heard a pin drop, every jaw hit the floor. Then, pandemonium!

You Have to Wait for the Next One!!!

Later friends,


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