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No.3 For The Good of the Game

What an exciting game it was on Friday. It finished 3-3 and all six goals were crackers. I was in my FC Koln kit leading the attack alongside Pete Porter for the whites. Koln (Cologne) have a Billy Goat known as Hennes as their mascot on the badge. The goat has regularly appeared at home matches since 1950 and they are currently on Hennes IX. He chews the grass along the touchline as play is in progress. Thankfully, we don’t invite goats to partake of the playing surface at my football as otherwise we would be on about the 300th incarnation as we play on artificial grass. But the goat emblem was significant because the match we played must rank amongst our Greatest Of All Time.

As the organiser of the game I also referee and play simultaneously unless someone who isn’t turning out for either team that week volunteers to officiate, in which case they wear a yellow shirt to differentiate between themselves and the dark shirts and white shirts of the players. In adopting the responsibility of organising the walking football it was necessary for me to acquire an FA Coaching Badge. The majority of the other budding coaches on my course were involved in junior football. As part of the process one evening was given over to how to deal with players and their parents and an FA coach specialising in this addressed us. The concern was raised about rowdy parents at matches and how to deal with them. Several anecdotes were given regarding this problem. It was then that I chimed in to inform the specialised coach that I never had any issues with disruptive parents at my matches.

‘Well done,’ she said, clearly impressed, ‘more power to your elbow. You must be doing something right.’

‘Yes, I would like to think so,’ I answered. ‘Then again all my players are aged between fifty to eighty plus!’ It brought the house down.

In truth we don’t usually get many people watching our matches except the odd undertaker looking for business.

I scored the first equaliser finishing off a classy move as Pete Hyde found me unmarked in the area to slot it past the keeper. Southey said that it was a great move except for my part in it which was the easy bit apparently, despatching it into the back of the net! Two more corkers were scored one for either side. Thus the half-time score was two apiece. The second half seen us, the white shirts, well under attack. Wave after wave of them. I found myself more in a defensive midfield role to help cope with the incessant pressure. Finally, we cracked. Not helped by me losing possession in our own half and from it the ball found Wayne Steppings who unleashed a powerful shot from distance into the top corner.

They deserved to take the lead as during their spell of dominance the dark shirts had hit the post through Rich Wolf and had three shots cleared off the line, one a brilliant and brave header away from Southey that received a hearty slap upon the back from myself in appreciation for keeping us in the match. Our oldest player, Mike Williams, who wasn’t playing in this match, is our most noted defender for heading clearances off the line. Mainly because at 82, and more frail than obviously he was in his prime, its a surprise to see him still standing after the ball has walloped against his forehead. Twice, in the past, he has headed my goalbound efforts off the line and on one notable occasion when his side were two one up, Nigel jinked into the box and unleashed a powerful shot that had goal written all over it until the brave octogenarian headed it away. Several of us in our post match analyses in the pub expressed the concern that it was foolhardy at his advanced age and it might’ve killed him and how would we explain that to his widow.

‘He had to do it, though,’ Southey opined, ‘otherwise it would’ve been two-all.’ I am sure being furnished with that information would’ve acted to temper Mrs Williams’ grief.

Back to our game, I couldn’t see how we could get back into it as we hadn’t been at the races in an offensive sense that second period but with six minutes to go we attacked and Pete Porter struck a curling effort from just outside the box that beat Rovers Derek’s outstretched fist in the darks goal to register an unlikely third equaliser. Then, as if that injected us all with much needed vitality we pressed for a winner. Martyn Stephens, the dark shirts’ midfield maestro who had given a Hoddlesque performance of sublime passing all afternoon expressed the wish to me that it finish as a 3-3 draw as it had been such a good game that no-one deserved to be on the losing side and sentiment seemed to be the gathering consensus (although it wasn’t much in evidence when Martyn and the darks were bombarding us for a concerted period not long before).

With two minutes remaining a cross came in and I got my head to it but big John Corbett managed to divert it away with his bonce as it seemed destined for the top net. Then, from the resulting corner the ball made a path towards their keeper Rovers Derek and the defenders seemed to ease off knowing he would collect it as it headed down his throat. I sensed an opportunity with my aerial prowess and went in to challenge him. I felt contact between myself and Derek then felt the ball hit my left calf and as I went into the net was very pleasantly surprised to find the ball had followed me there. The defenders called foul while my team could see nothing wrong with it. Erstwhile endeavour on my part had produced reward. Indeed, several of the dark shirts players later professed to having seen nothing wrong with the goal either.

But for the good of the game I ruled it out. Contact was made between us, not intentionally on my part, and it seemed a shame to end what had been a fabulous game on such a contentious note. In fact I then blew for time a minute early so that everyone could go home happy.

I I had scored once in a cracker of a match but I had upheld Corinthian values and also put the happiness of everyone before the personal glory of scoring a brace and the last ditch winner and for that I am proud of myself. Had that goal I disallowed been for my hattrick, though, I would have got VAR involved.

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