Monday, June 18, 2007

West End United vs Home Brand FC

All photos by me good mate Pandora Karavan (Pandy).

We're in the yellow and purple. Andrew's bum is on the left, Dorian on the right. We lost 3:2, but we managed to accumulate three injuries, two of which could not take the field again, and I also ask viewers to note the age difference between us and the opposition. The second half we played with 10 men due to the injuries.

Number 2 is Paul, our best central defender. He'd had a head to head clash with another of our own team. The other in the clash, Dennis, went home for stiches. I don't think this one went in, as I remember the first goal, and the only one in this half, as higher. I may be wrong. Yeah, that's yours truly in the goal.

A boot from Mark, who played a class game on the wing.

This was a potentially disasterous moment, but Daryl, screaming across (he's over 45), managed to kick the ball into touch.

Sean's been playing for a couple of years only so is not that much more experienced than me, but it doesn't mean one should think colliding with him is a great idea. He's a bloody solid defender.

Dorian, one of our strikers, in dribling action. The classy looking midfielder in the background is Peter, who in midfield is probalby our best player. Actually he seems to be everywhere.

Andrew congratulating Dorian after his goal. It was our second (the first was a penalty from Dennis who had to leave to get stitches in his head), and Dorian's first ever. Beautiful passing lead-up too. But no taking away from Dorian's beautiful finish.

Preparing for a corner. From left (in yellow and purple), is Andrew, me, Sean and Paul (who's bleeding had stopped, so he's taken his bandage off).

I'm pretty sure this is the second one that went in. I got my hand to it but it was too powerful and pushed through to goal. Hopefully with experience I'll be able to stop these. This was my first time in goal ever.

The worst thing about my most ludicrous moment of courage is that this guy had already been called off side.

One moment later. Me getting my neck challenged. I can still feel the bruising from jaw to collar on the right side of my neck.

Some more Daryl action. These blokes we're playing against are children.

Peter has some classy footwork. The bloke with the cool hair in the fore is Beppe, our Italian, who had an excellent game in midfield reclaiming possesion again and again.

Number 17 is Mark again. I got this puppy.

That's the formidable Sean on the right, Mark in the middle and the peep of bandaged head is Paul. I have no idea what's happening here, but it's a cool action shot. This was Pandy's first foray as a sports photographer, and I reckon she shows quite a knack.

Myself in a routine action, Mark again in the fore. For a Midfield winger he seems to be helping me a lot.

Me in some sort of existential, concentrated, action zone. I could really get to like this position, seriously.

Ok, I didnt get near the bloody ball, but this one didn't get through. It's coming from the right of camera across the goal and it went wide.

A very nice shot I reckon - well composed. Daryl again. No secret really that the blokes Pandy knows are Daryl (pictured here), Sean, Dorian and myself.

Dorian in action again. Note the dust - our home pitch is a fucking dry sandpit. Peter looking as sexy as ever in the background.

Look, I have given up this blogging thing ok? But with these pics available, what was I supposed to do? Here is our own, very grass-roots crew in action. It was a great game, these guys completely thrashed us last time, and with some serious circumstances we did really well. Did I mention we've never won a game? We're an over-35s team who were conned into an obscure open league with the rhetoric that all the teams were old and crap, and they're just not. We have a hoot anyway, and whichever way you look at it, the ball is still round.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Rambling Goodbye For Now

This evening I finished rereading John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. In between reading several other books, including a couple of old (70s) football coaching books and Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend by Michael Crick and David Smith, as well as the beautiful, sensitive Carson McCullers' classic The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I ploughed through Wyndham very quickly. I admire his direct simplicity, barely messing with adjectives and spiralling subclauses. He's good. Maybe it's a good one to read to Jacob.

Afterwards I walked to the shop and on the way home stopped in the parking lot of Coles and smoked a cigarette by myself, in the cool and the space of the night. The main problem with Wyndam's imaginative discussion of a lost world trying to rebuild hope and sense, is he didn't mention - not even once - the fate of football, and nor did it occur to his fledgling society to get a bloody kick-about going. Never mind.

I've sort of stopped blogging already I guess. At first it was procrastination, then just too much to say and a lack of time, but now I'm facing the reality that I've moved on from dedicating all my intellectual energy to the beautiful game. I want to do a translation and commentary of the gospel of Matthew, I want to write a novel about Brisbane during WWII (yes, there is a soccer game in it between Australian and American troops), and I also want to write a book about the philosophy of Murray Bookchin, who passed away last year.

So I want to read a lot more, as I have been, outside of soccer, and meanwhile my job is taking on a new dimension which will keep me much busier there as well.

This is no goodbye to this beautiful game which has thoroughly infected my life. Call it an integration. I still am assistant coach of Jacob's team (they won their last game 4:1 and are at the top of their table), when I can I kick-about on Sunday afternoons and train and play with West End United, who I should say are doing perfectly terribly. And I still love following the football media, collecting and reading obscure books about football, and generally wearing my love for the game on my sleeve. I'm sure I'll be commenting on some of the wonderful blogs now established from time to time.

But here's a thing, and excuse me if I get a little personal now. Last year was one of the blackest years I've ever had. Early in the year I reached a very ugly depth of depression, and it barely got better for a long time. My previous job had fallen apart in stress and personal anguish and feelings of failure, I still boiled intermitently about my failed relationship with my ex-wife, and a love affair that had been on-and-off for a couple of years had become a passionate but destructive catastrophe. There were very good friends, but I'd reached the point that I didn't know it, and thought I was alone.

When I started getting into soccer more, through Jacob's team, watching the World Cup, and then beginning to go to A-League games, and finally starting this blog, I was unemployed and didn't feel there was much else. It lifted me. I have it to thank for so much, all indirect, but all real.

When I woke up one morning and decided to get a new job I thanked football. That sounds silly now, but at the time it was the clear truth. Football gave me something collective, fun and meaningful to engage with. It gave me a reason to love my self, my body and my community. It gave me a fantastic way to be a father. And it brought me to this morning where I realised I needed a job.

So that morning I wrote a resume, had a shave and a shower, went to the train station, via the hairdresser, and went to town. In town I had my resume printed up, along with a reasonably flattering photograph of myself, made copies, bought envelopes and paperclips, and over a coffee assembled my strategy. I went to every bookshop in town and distributed my stuff. Archives was not the first I went to, but only because Borders was on the way. Ross, who owns Archives, has to this day not read my resume. He just employed me on sight. The universe was dancing.

Things have kept moving along and now it looks like books are my life for the forseeable future. I love them, and yes, I especially like collecting football books.

And what an adventure and a joy 2007 has been so far. Books at work and football outside of work, and apart from some dear friends, no women. I'll leave the question of how much the last point has to do with my current happiness open. But touching wood everywhere, the year has gone well from New Years Eve onwards.

Ok, I'll be even more indulgent and relate New Years Eve. There were only six at this party. (I remember being invited to the party via a phone call when I was over at John's place watching an A-League game.) We all took some party tablets (just pretend that's a metaphor), and I was getting to know the few people I hadn't met before. There was a girl there. I can't remember her name now but I was barely asking her what it was when she looked up at me with these quite beautiful big brown eyes and said,very matter-of-factly, "Uncross your arms." I did, and for want of another, I called it a New Year's resolution. That, of course, is a metaphor, but it was a powerful one at the time and I've stuck with it. To just try to stay open, like maybe I hadn't been since breaking up with Jacob's Mum. To just dance. That's a metaphor too - I'm not really much of a dancer.

I've had dark moments this year. Occasionally I've had a touch of that insomnia and mental anguish, but now I seem to breeze through it, give myself a little talking to and move on with a sort of laughter.

Truly, I thank the football gods, and football will stay with me forever as a source of meaning. It is in all its arbitrariness a collective biophilia, a universal language, a reason to engage with community and indeed the whole world. It can bring down tyrannies, give children values and communities structure and purpose where they are otherwise alienated urbanities, and even play a role in the emancipation of women in places like Iran. I'm utterly convinced that the two biggest forces which led to the undoing of Eastern European tyranies was soccer and popular music. Blah blah. Sorry, this really is indulgent.

But to my very limited but deeply valued audience here, this is farewell. I do have other things to do, which I also love, and football has helped me to a place where they all seem feasible again. This is not a farewell to football. For me it is a fulfilment of the journey, a moving along with football now integrated into my being.

For once upon a time, as a good Left-wing political hack, I properly despised sport and its waste of resources and human energy when there was so much wrong with the world. I was wrong about that. The wrongs of the world need sport. It needs to be organised team sport which we can play universally. And football is the best game.