Tuesday, 29 March 2016

£8.99 for new boots - see what happens...

This is what happens when you get football boots for £8.99 - I bought these in December 2013 and this is what they looked like after 4 months...

Questions below came about from my interviews with ‘park footballers’ which I am compiling for the publication – many found it easy to talk about why they love grass roots football, a few found it difficult to articulate their feelings, others didn't like to analyse for ‘fear of spoiling the experience of playing’ but overall it has been exciting because most view it philosophically – that it’s not just a game but a social function that reflects life.
One of my reasons for starting “Jumpers for Goalposts” is because I think it is important that grass roots footballers (past and present) actually record what it is we love about this beautiful game and how it impacts upon our lives because it is our stories that inspires next generations – so I thought up the following questions to help stimulate this response for everyone participating in this project and welcome your responses:
o   Your Name / nick name:
o   Your favourite position
o   Where you began to play footie as a child
o   Why you came to this location (Brighton / UK / Europe)
o   What are your feelings about other players?
o   Where your favourite place to play in Brighton?
o   What have you learned about playing together?
o   Where do you come from, if not from Brighton?
o   How far do you have to travel to / from games & mode of transport?
o   Describe your perfect game
o   Describe your perfect move / goal
o   What is your favourite team? Why this team?
o   All time favourite player – PAST & PRESENT
o   WHERE / WHEN was last game you visited
o   What do your non playing friends and family think of you playing regularly?
o   Dreaded Injuries! What happened? How did you overcome them?
o   What would you say to a youngster that is considering doing park football?
o   Hopes for the future of grass roots football -
o   Comments about this art process – make sense? Why?
o   How have you / your group / your relationships been influenced or changed over the years due to football?
o   What is happening in your head when you play?
o   What problems / issues have arisen in matches?
o   What degree of organisation is there in your group / game?
o   What have been the benefits of playing Park Football?
o   What’s your hobby / what are you really good at
o   Your occupation how is this influenced by grass roots football
o   Comments welcome. Thank you. Edi (Jumpers For Goalposts- Project Leader)

Monday, 21 March 2016

My visit to Whitehawk versus Going Dahn!

Firstly, apologies to all those owners of cars I leafleted on the way to a home game last Saturday – some of you may not be interested in sharing their stories of ‘grass roots football’. But after sitting up all night printing then cutting so many of them to size by blunt scissor hands - I placed them under your window wipers in good faith.
It was disappointing approaching a stadium so close to my home, having never visited there before, also questioning why it was so difficult to find (at far end of East Brighton Park) - hustled in beside a caravan site with a single solitary sign, as if it must remain a public secret , a beauty spot nestling in a valley.
I had come to promote ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ but I was immediately captivated by animated choruses and raucous voices that filled entire area with banshee bedlam! At one moment intimidating, then another singing anti homophobic chants - this was a dynamic fan base of dedicated people that loved a ‘beautiful game’.
They came from all walks of life and made it immediately clear that they would continue chanting whether or not ‘the Ultras’ were winning or losing, they were galvanised and inspired into being a tough side to beat and seemed to be individually enjoying a tussle against a lesser team that looked to be ‘going dahn!’
A mid field player with an Italian sounding name was illuminating a rowdy, gaudy game with infectious touches, balance, control and flair, yet fearlessly sweating blood trying to win the ball back if dispossessed; also a tall rangy black player that seemed to effortlessly win every air borne ball, even after giving opposing players a head start by not using his arms against them for leverage – both seemed to be doing ‘those little things’ that can cause one side to dominate another.
I followed invitation to mingle with the crowd after speaking to friendly ground staff, ladies behind counters and wardens that encouraged me to promote my project; and spending time in the sponsors section, in the bar, in the crowd – talking with all manner of people from all over the country – reminded me why I often prefer ‘grass roots football’.
I was taping flyers onto toilet walls, beneath sky TV screen and sharing stories with punters in queue for chips & dips when a goal went in, but I didn't mind – Westham were one-up against Chelsea, chocolate was on sale at 50 pence per cup, I’d met someone that played for Liverpool Ladies and talked with a friendly photographer that everyone seemed to know and like called JJ Waller, so my day was already fantastic.
As three men grunted in battle, a few yards away from us, trying to wrought possession of a ball from each other on touch line, I heard that there was a half-time fight in the away team changing room, so the stewards were lining up to escort them off the field.  This fact seemed to excite me and I'm still trying to figure out why…

I shamelessly joined in with playground antics of the crowd by continuously barracking the away goal keeper by shouting his first name, even when the ball was far away, even when the players were leaving the field, even as we left the ground, even without a care for the score – knowing that his taunted name would haunt his dreams of loosing on Saturday night. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The week I lost my sole

I've included a picture of me ‘in action’ to prove that I am still playing! Also to show that despite ‘advanced age’ we can still enjoy one of those what I call ‘Maradona Moments’ in a game – when your opponents seem to pause as if mesmerised by your ball control and you manage a deft touch, or to execute a difficult pass that shows foresight; subtle yet penetrative assertive movements that you can mindfully replay, trudging off the pitch or into dream land.
It is a useful picture because I have had terrible games this week – on Sunday I suffered one of those games when your side just cannot seem to string more than 3 passes together and the other side realises this very early in the game, so they seem to have an extra player to pass to, always in control, dancing past us like leprechauns on heat.                                                                                                                                         It didn't get much better on Wednesday on the astro turf pitch (which I call ‘ash tray turf’ because of fine grains that collect like black sand or termites flying into your boots) : I almost lost my voice shouting ‘keep it on the floor!” and “keep it short!” but everyone, even the better players in my side were always trying to ‘beat the world by themselves’, needing extra touches of the ball before offering ‘hospital passes’ to fellow players – we got walloped 8-1 and topping that: I forgot my gloves so the game was followed by a painfully slow hard and bitter bike ride home in the blue fingered cold. 

Trying to cycle with hands in pockets is not recommended in any coaching manual, it is depressing and becomes easy for one to begin to doubt if playing three times a week is advisable or even obsessive.                                                                                       Also, with both groin and lungs taking turns to complain about switching from heavy mud on to synthetic wet pitches, then to dry /sweat stained indoor gyms for ‘5 a side’ - is this realistic for ‘someone of my maturing age’?

My thoughts kept slipping back to the last time I saw my father.                                         It was November 2014, he was resplendent with his favourite cloth cap across his chest, permanently asleep in his coffin, his grandchildren standing beside me like sapling trees; and yes, I was thinking about football!                                                                         Not just because his cap reminded me of a cartoon of an infamous football fan called ‘Andy Cap’ (that used to festoon newspapers in my childhood), but also because his life was cut short by a disease that is related to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, a disease that has attacked almost every ancestor in my family.                                                       I was asking myself a question: if I had not been playing football so regularly, would my children be looking down on me as I am doing at my father? Silent – knowing that pleadings and reprimands are fruitless, finally falling on deaf ears…

My children, now young adults, reminded me that he was in a coma or recovering from a stroke for so long they never could ask him anything and had been berating me for at least two years to stop smoking, to a point of desperation that pushed them to breech boundaries of parental respect – “it’s a stupid habit for an asthmatic!”
Something changed in me when his body was laid to rest - within 9 months I had given smoking up completely, by simply loosing the taste for it. But what else helped me dampen the habitual behaviours? Apart from gaining the use of my taste buds, heightened sense of smell and no longer fearing halitosis? It was the lovely sleep / dream / waking routines one gets from playing a full game, when your body says: ‘yyyyeeeeeeeaaahhhssss…that was gooooood – feel your body healing? Nice…’

But stopping smoking wasn't good for my football. My lungs humiliate me by forcing me to double over like someone hit me in my stomach and they keep shouting ‘payback!’ every time I run with or without a ball; or even worse as I gasp for air they murmur as if in a defiant whisper ‘you deserve this! Fool!’                                                                        I was in the middle of one of those mazy wall passing runs I used to love doing when I was younger - bursting away from a defender with a neat side step to gain a couple yards, then rather than try to beat the next player I play a ‘one / two’ and get into the ‘the box’, the ball is now laying there naked, begging me to kick it low and hard into bottom corner of the net when “gasp!” my lungs (both of them) stopped me dead - declaring ‘think you get away with abusing us didn't you? Well take this!’ and my heart joined chorus by banging a Morse code on my rib cage ‘and take that!’

The dreaded possibility of playing ‘walking football’ becomes a morbid reality but in between my guilty gasps for a second wind, even after acknowledging that I sacrificed my health for briefly lived respites that comes from fleeting pleasures of puffed smoke, despite the loss of form of my typical speedy runs, I am grateful for the extended quality of life that playing football has given me.

Fellow abstinent friends say that it will take months, even years before my lungs stop complaining and return to working normally with no more threats of strike action. But you know what? I eat exactly what I like when I like and I weigh the same as I did as a young man; I confidently burn off unwanted calories and sweat out toxins by doing something I love throughout the year. It’s all about balance really…

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


"We nearly broke up on our first date!" Although I was born blessed with 2 attributes compatible to love football - the love of Art  and of running very fast.
At 5 years old, I appreciated the beauty of the human form in motion that is evident in every sport, in dance, even falling off a horse. 
With boundless energy, I loved to run really quick, then suddenly stop, to look back and see where I'd come from and if my shadow had caught up with me - it was like time travel. 
I was so speedy that I would switch to running backwards in 100 yard dashes to laugh at the panting efforts of my competitors trying to beat me as I crossed the line.
They matched me against older kids until a girl nearly 6 years older than me managed to pip me on the line - she became my first crush, my Eartha Kitt cat woman.

Like in many romances,the celestial alignment has to overcome obstacles before true love is formed - I nearly rejected footballs attempts to seduce me from the very start.

My dad had a few workmates around watching a game on TV, they all seemed agitated, shouting , arguing , pointing and using curse words that I didn't understand.  
Our family lived up a hill in a suburban house in Wembley at the time - slightly intimidated with no place to sit but the laminate floor, I absent mindedly wandered out the front door and down the street. It wasn't long before I realised that something very unusual was happening around me - outside was a strange silence with not a single person, animal or car moving in the street, or in gardens, all the way down it into the town, a ghost town, not one sound apart from a distant roar like listening to seagulls through covered ears.

I kept walking further towards that invisible boundary were adults ask what you are doing unaccompanied if they discover you, but close enough to Billy Whiz back home in minutes. Still. Nobody. Not a milkman, not a street cleaner, no taxis or waiting prams outside a shop, or an old lady feeding pigeons - nothing, no-one, I became apprehensive, unknowingly scared as only an innocent child can be, paralysed with fear of the unknown I stood in the middle of the street in this formerly bustling town until the seagulls became a roar. 
Hordes of people started streaming out from everywhere and screaming was heard behind curtains, spilling out from front rooms, out the doorways, everyone seemed  just plain mad if not drunk - sheer shock shook me into action! I had to get home to warn my parents and my little sister that they were in imminent danger. 
Terrified, I ran straight home without pausing. The steep hill didn't matter - they had not even noticed that I had gone, and before I could warn them I found out that England had just won something called World Cup, and I thought 'if this game makes people act this crazy - I want nothing to do with football'- placing it below 'avocados' in my childish list of dislikes.

Until Mr. Bateman, a red faced , track suited , sporting school teacher and proud Welshman (who constantly referred to the Rhonda Valleys, so much so that I was compelled to visit it in adulthood) barked at me 'Your quick Edi. You'll be the sweeper'. I didn't know what that was but it was the first time any teacher had shown confidence in me. Pride got me out on the field before anyone else was ready. Unfortunately neither was my tender ankle or the frozen leather ball ready - kicking it powerfully without knowing how , I heard a starter pistol crack and my ankle was severely fractured. 'Stupid boy!' Mr. Bateman said 'You're relegated to full back until you've walked it off!' 

By the end of the game I could barely walk at all. The team trudged off and I was stranded.
Up to this point in my life I didn't know what my sister was for; other than being under orders to protect her by my parents, a heroic job I cherished, I was her 'big brother' after all, no-one dared to harm her for fear of my flying fists;  but this injury humbled me, a short journey home averaging 30 minutes became 2 hours, with my little sister supporting me every inch on the way, showing how she could be strong for me too - and I realised how deeply I loved her.
For almost 7 weeks my leg was in plaster, I learned that injuries were not just something John Wayne would mop and staunch with torn cloth from a shirt, tie it off , put jacket back on showing bullet holes - it meant somebody helping you in / out of pyjamas, helping you upstairs to the toilet and waiting outside to get you back down again.
I vowed that I'd never play again. Stick to athletics - with no late tackles; or how about long jump? Doesn't involve heading frozen leather balls.

So there it is, although I hated football it had already taught me some very important things about ambiguity - that there was a beautiful place in UK called Wales / that I could experience 'feelings' for another person that was both powerful yet undermining / that I could love and respect my sister for who she was / that people could be passionate without causing danger and celebrate / about mortality and fleeting moments of creativity and that Healing is like tomorrows - always possible.