Friday, 12 February 2016
The idea came upon me first about 10 years ago.
But I was in a different head-space then – my children were 10 years younger and I was more focused upon survival. Community Development work is not a get rich quick scheme, yet this activity was something that my heart and soul was happy and at home with – sometimes you just have to accept your vocation.
I remember the moment it dawned upon me that I should see this idea through to the end - success and failure didn't matter, this is what happened to me:
I was standing, waiting in the middle of a rainy windswept grassy field, bending double with cold snap of winter turning my shins into goose bumps, trying to get my new football boots on without letting my feet touch damp icy ground, as Graham pulled up on his bike.
We could see 4 other players trudging over in the distance ‘looks like we've got at least 3-a-side!’
He noticed that I noticed that he was trying to change into his boots without his toes touching the ground and we broke into a kind of laugh that is fixed on faces because of driving rain, ‘Look at us. We must be crazy!’ he said
… ‘Yeah…’ I replied gasping into the wind ‘we must look really stupid!’
‘But I know why we’re doing this’ he said, pulling his socks up and stamping his feet ‘its love isn't it? You love it too don’t you?’
‘Yeah Graham. I can’t help it. I just love it! I heard it raining last night so I thought “let’s rest today” but I woke up and I knew the ground would be soft – I get these feelings in my legs. There was nothing going to stop me playing today…’
His two son’s joined us; reporting that we could get 7 a side when their friends arrived – they had all just finished a game that morning but were afflicted with the same ‘football gene’ Graham had passed to them via Man U – they still had those ‘feelings in their legs’ too, with similar knobbly knees like his, and I slowly realised that I had witnessed them grow up, from gangly teenagers, then right up through Uni, now fully matured into working class men with hand dog stubble – I’d seen this by increments, almost exact in regular 2 weekly intervals, for years and over seasons; acknowledging that not long from now, on a day like this, they might be bringing their own children here to play, with similar yet littler knobbly knees …
It was not an epiphany. Sometimes I catch myself gasping with joy on a beautiful sunset. No, it wasn't like that – I was not emotional; it was recognition, like seeing a crocus in January. It was a sign, a ‘calling’ to honour this cycle of life experiences that was evolving before my eyes like chapters.
Some other students joined us, younger men, some with really good close control, others with a mean turn of pace, a nice mix of ball skills, enough for a worthwhile challenge.
Enough for us all to convert to the full size pitch. The sun broke through and briefly we could see far enough ahead for long passes. We could feel its heat soften the grass, turning our sweat into vapour trails and Preston Park became a theatre of dreams.
I had a peach of a game. Some of my touches amazed me because my thoughts were somewhere else. By the time I pulled my bike up the path to my home door – I had decided.
Well let’s be honest – I didn't know exactly what I had decided. All I knew is that I was going to devote myself to the purpose I have outlined to you; dedicating my creativity, collaborative talents, practical skills and experience to the task.
I welcome you to the ‘Corinthian Spirit’ of Park Football.