Retirement is difficult

14 April ~ I was bringing in the shopping on a Saturday afternoon in the rain when I heard someone cry out in pain. This was followed by lots of angry shouting and several blasts of a whistle. There was no mistaking the sound – it was a football match, sent on the breeze from the football fields of the local school. Standing on my driveway, with several carrier bags of shopping in each hand, I was catapulted into the action. I could picture the victim. No doubt a winger – often passengers in poor conditions, shinpads the size of tape cassettes, framed high up his shin by several layers of electrical tape wrapped around his socks.

Of course, pads worn like that are an open invitation to any full-back worth his salt. (And players wonder why football socks ladder so easily.)

It’s fair to say I was quite lost in a reverie about out the grassroots game I had played every season for the last 25 years. Then I stopped playing in December. Family and work commitments had made it difficult to justify spending the majority of Saturday travelling around Hampshire to play what was essentially a hobby.

I thought I’d made the adjustment to no longer playing. I was wrong. This false sense of security had been brought on by the lack of football played in the last three months of heavy rain. Now faced with the game it in its familiar Saturday afternoon time slot I retreated into self-pity for the rest of the day. Going cold turkey has side effects. I wonder what part football has in my life now I no longer play it. Besides watching the odd game on TV, the answer seems very little.

My final game is clear in the memory: a late defeat on a village green somewhere off the A34. Then later, staring at what was left of the plate of cheese sandwiches in the clubhouse knowing this was it. Now the weather’s improved there’s no escape from purgatory. A recent Sunday morning walk was very nearly ruined by what was masquerading as youth football.

It was the indifferent body language of teenagers lolloping about the field of play that got my goat. I had a good mind to get on sideline and tell the centre-forward to stop dangling his legs about for pointless flick-ons to the goalkeeper and get in between the ball and his opponent in order to bring his supporting midfielders into the game.

In fact, I think that was along the lines of what I shouted (I had to raise my voice because of the wind). Judging by some of the parents’ responses it seemed my feedback had been taken out of context. Shame, as feel I have much to give back to the game. One minute you’re just starting out, then life rearranges your spare time into shopping trips for garden furniture. Young players need to understand this before it’s too late. Mark Sanderson

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