The Netherlands have a famous saying that Saturday is the most beautiful day of the week because of soccer. I have celebrated…
THAT STICKY STUFF
I have celebrated the ‘saying’ at the top of this page, for nearly half my life, but until recently, I didn’t seem to fully grasp it’s meaning.
It was 1993, my pubes almost appeared like they belonged down there, I rebelled against absolutely everything, it were the most thrilling days of my life. I discovered girls and vice versa, I found out my parents weren’t always right and I won all my fights while losing them at the same time. For instance, I got my parents to let me stay up till 23:00 to be able to watch the X-files, but was banned from our remote right after 21:00. On Saturdays however I played soccer and used to be, at least momentarily, freed from their constant mild Christianity a pressure not yet consciously felt in elementary, but quite similar to gravity.
Early that morning (dear Lord, we used to play early) I felt something sticky while reaching for my gear. When I pulled it out it appeared to be one of my shin guards. ‘Why does that always happen to things I haven’t used in a while?’ I asked myself. This happened in our dressing room while getting ready for an important match against our nemesis and it was at that moment that Gerardus, our obese coach, decided it was time for a speech.
Living in a small rural community Gerardus had seen us skip church more and more regularly which got him worried. It was either that or he actually thought there was a link between apostle Peters famous betrayal of Christ and our recent defeat. Whatever it was, it felt as if Gods notions of normal had now taken over my Saturday mornings as well and I was more then ready to make someone pay for that.
Gerardus ended his speech with: ‘So actually it’s all about soccer pitch chivalry’. While he desperately tried to replace my preacher, I heavily enjoyed the inevitable erosion of every principle bone in my body, greeting his final statement with an arrogant grin and an applause that lasted uncomfortably long. I then rolled down my socks, untied my shin guards and Crip-walked to the pitch (oh Lord, I loved crushing toes).
The match itself was gruesome. Our coach, a bear of a man who believed ones entire body consisted of shoulder, was also our referee and in accordance with his believes he never raised his whistle for a foul. This allowed our opponents to compensated their minimal motor skills with some excellent ligament stretching. Becoming fiercely frustrated we tried to appeal to referee Gerardus by portraying a crucified Christ every third unpunished tackle. After my third bleeding Jesus, I had bitten my lips to enhance believability, Gerardus started laughing and applauding awkwardly long. That’s when I gave up on trying to score a goal and focused on preventing them.
Because they couldn’t and we weren’t allowed the match was destined to remain 0 – 0 until the ninetieth minute. In those seconds God seemed to finally look our way and decided it was time for some divine intervention. He whispered to one of their defenders to pass the ball back to his keeper without checking if there was still someone in between. It was me. I controlled his pass, turned, looked, lobbed and scored followed by a harmonic roar as seldom heard before on those fields of joy.
Looking back with a gigantic smile I suddenly heard a whistle. When I looked in the direction of that horrible sound I saw Gerardus, who was at least fifty feet away, making the offside sign. My memories become blurry from that moment, but our referee/coach died a few days after his terrible mistake that made us draw that game. Heart-attack, dear Lord he was fat – and we didn’t play the following weekend. The whole team attended his funeral, all just days ago having wished he was dead.
That happened twenty-three years ago. Three years ago (2012) more than a million Dutch amateur soccer players left their shin guards in their smelly bags. Thousands of pitches stayed empty for the weekend as soccer crazed Holland desperately tried to make a statement against violence around the pitch. All because a bunch of morons, who’d obviously never understood the concept of honour, kicked a failing assistant referee to death.
I can still clearly recall the hate I felt towards Gerardus back then. But my opinion about that feeling is as thin and wrinkly as my pubes. I’m only certain that I no longer like everything surrounding soccer, that you should never fight one guy with a group and that Chivalry is something that sticks. It just has to be shown from time to time, especially around those (un)holy chalk lines on the most beautiful day of the week.