Sunday, 21 October 2012

"Why do you even play football?"

SBFC 3 Fishponds Town 1

FC Bristol South 5 SBFC 4

Legion 3 SBFC 3

Quayside 2 SBFC 8

As some of you know, I asked for a private word with today's ref after the final whistle. I told him I thought some of the challenges we received were plain reckless and he could have done more to stop them. I'm not accusing Quayside of anything malicious, it's just a fact that in Sunday League, tackles are mistimed for the same reason most 25-yard volleys go absolutely nowhere near the goal. That reason is that most of us are shit at football.

There's a tendency among some refs to shrug their shoulders at the shambolic tackling at our level, to just dismiss it as part of the amateur game. But the lower level of defensive skill means the refs have to exercise more control, not less. A hilariously sliced volley is harmless, but an unskilled centre-back hurling all 13st of himself, studs up, at the standing leg of a winger isn't funny, it's just dangerous.

Credit to the ref, he let me make my point before condescending me into another dimension.

"How long you been playing the game?"

He asked me this knowing full well, as a 60 year-old man, that he would have been refereeing longer than any number I could tell him. So, I reminded him that I was being polite and that if he disagreed with me, that was fair enough but there was no need to be a prick about it. Undeterred, he continued with his line of argument.

"I've been reffing 25 years and I have the experience to know when something is dangerous or not."

I said what happened 20 years ago had nothing do do with it, you're not allowed to jump into tackles anymore. If I were getting 40 grand a week, then maybe I'd risk a broken leg, but for an amateur game to be played like this was just crazy. He then asked me a question I've been thinking about all afternoon.

"Why do you even play football?"

At the time it didn't really register, I just thanked him for letting me make my point and wished him an enjoyable Sunday afternoon. It was only later that this question struck me as odd. Was the ref really saying that if I was worried about one of my teammates getting seriously injured, I shouldn't even bother turning up? That's like complaining to the waiter that you've been served raw chicken, only for him to ask "Why do you even go to restaurants?"

More on this later, but I suppose I had better talk about how SBFC have been getting on first.

A few weeks ago now, SBFC gave the 10 ten men of Fishponds Town an exhibition of passing verve and profligacy. Jack Britton opened the scoring early doors, latching on to a neat through ball from Andrew Morris and finishing with 'aplomb', whatever that is. SBFC then proceeded to spurn one chance after another, as opposed to spurning all their chances at the same time, which is physically impossible.

Eventually, Dave scored a couple of penalties. He didn't kick them very hard though. If they'd have been saved, Alan Shearer would have called them 'bad penalties'. But they went in, so Shearer would have called them 'good penalties', had he seen them. Then Shearer would have grinned 'A good penalty is one that goes in', seemingly making an ironic joke about his inability to take his own analysis to an abstract level. This would be a clever thing for Alan Shearer to do, so if he ever does it, this isn't what he actually means because the man is a fucking idiot and anything clever he ever says is an accident.

The week after we lost 5-4 to FC Bristol South. I don't really remember much about this game except that at one point I tried to clear a corner, but all I did was kick the ball vertically upwards into my own face. At the second attempt I then hoofed it 50 yards to Colin, which may have been the furthest I have ever kicked a ball.

I went off at 70 mins and then went round telling everyone my pass completion rate was 100%, which I genuinely thought was true at the time. I then remembered a couple of misplaced passes and felt quite embarrassed about going round boasting about my 100% pass completion rate like some sort of madman when it wasn't even true.

Their last 2 goals were pretty good strikes and we can't really complain about losing the game, not that I really remember much of it. According to the spreadsheet Steff and Ben Wyatt both scored (I have some recollection of this being a good goal Ben?). Dave got a penalty. If anyone has any memories to add, please do so in the comments below.

On to our away game against the league leaders, Legion. We didn't win, but I think this was one the best SBFC performances I have been a part of. We were competitive and passed the ball well against a very good side. We had no Dave or Jack, but everyone on the pitch stepped up and played with skill and courage.

SBFC's first goal was magnificent. Sam Bebbington, who has been having an excellent season so far, made a great intercepting header from a threatening Legion long ball. Raj picked it up in midfield and nudged a short pass to Andrew Morris who had time to turn and play a superb ball through the defence to SBFC's notoriously aggressive right-winger Colin. After a bit of high-paced jiggery-pokery, Colin whipped in a cross with such ferocity that Ben Wyatt didn't have time to get his instep under the ball and lift it over the bar as usual, and much to his own disgust, scored from short range.

Lovey stuff, Saints in front.

Legion's 'little man with a big attitude', Turbo, then scored a clever back-heel flick from a cross that should never been allowed to skid into the box the way it did. The SBFC of old would probably have folded at this stage. As ever, the opposition were more physical, but did that mean they 'wanted it more'? No, no, a thousand times 'no'. Well, three times 'no' really. Four if you count that last one.

Anyway, Legion gave away a moronic free-kick on the D. Now, the whole point of the D is that it marks 10 yards from the penalty spot so the ref can make sure no defending player is within 10 yards of the ball when the penalty is taken. So, the Legion wall should have been on the penalty spot right? No, not according to the ref. When I pointed out this simple fact to him he said

"I've called my ten yards, now walk away".


So while I was getting pissed off about that, Steff calmly sent the ball over the wall and into the top right corner. 10 yards, 6 yards... whatever... it's all the same to the man they call 'A Wizard'.

Turbo then demanded his teammates 'up the tempo' and 'box us in' by getting all of Legion's players to stand in the SBFC half for our goal-kick. This odd decision was exploited by SBFC when Ellis picked it up in midfield and needed only to poke the ball past the Legion defensive line so that Steff could collect it in acres of space. Steff sent the keeper left with his eyes and slotted the ball neatly into the recently vacated centre of the goal.

Four minutes to go and 3-1 up, good times. But Legion scored twice and it was 3-all. Turbo, and Legion in general, are quite annoying, but he and they are quite good at football. Fair play to them. Bailey was Man of the Match after making a string/host/plethora of superb saves.

Finally, today's 8-2 demolition of Quayside. SBFC played some smashing stuff at times, lots of crisp, short passing and clever movement. Colin had a magic game up front. A triffic game. A top, top game, but Andrew Morris was Man of the Match after bitchslapping Quayside till they begged for mercy. Their beg for mercy took an unusual form, mainly just a series of daft sliding tackles, but I know begging for mercy when I see it.

I can't quite remember the sequence of goals, but I'm pretty sure the almost perfectly cubic hairy-hat-trick-hero Sam Greenwood was first. Sam G, as nobody calls him, has fitted in to the SBFC squad like an old-lady with a slipped disc getting into a hot bath. It's taken a bit of time, but... errrmmm... fuck I dunno. I've been writing this for an hour now. Complete the analogy yourselves. Big-ups, shout-outs and wet kisses to Ben Mudge for his strong performance and first 90 minutes of the season and to Steff for nobly volunteering to play in goal.

Highlight of the game, for me anyway, was one of Andrew's goals. I picked it up inside the SBFC half, beat one of Quayside's midfielders and played it through to Dave, who then played it back to me. Playing a 1-2 with Dave is like playing Swingball with Roger Federer. You're kidding yourself if you really think you're contributing to the flow of the moment, but I enjoyed it anyway. So, collecting the ball 15 yards inside the opposition half, I looked up and slid an inch perfect pass between the centre-backs to Andrew Morris who finished superbly.

In the context of the game, it was pretty meaningless, we had already won at that stage. But, it was probably the most satisfying thing I have ever done on a football pitch. I'm not blessed with a particular talent for football, I mainly play because despite my ineptitude, I enjoy the game. Sometimes when we're getting beaten or if I'm playing awfully, I wonder why I bother, but then once in every dozen games I execute a moment of creativity, probably just as well as a professional would have done.

Sure, Sunday League football is pointless. But then even winning the Champions League is pointless if you want to be a prick about it. We're all still going to die. One day the pitches upon which we play will probably be a post-apocalyptic nuclear dust-bowl and nothing any of us will have done will be remembered by anyone. But that's not the point. To master your surroundings, even for just a few seconds, is something to savour. To do it in the company of teammates that you genuinely enjoy playing with makes it all the more special.

Why do I play football?

What a stupid question.

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