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Not even football can prevent the future...
Can’t he see?
“Sam, Sam over here.” Someone’s calling my name, but the direction of the caller is lost among the shuffle of squared footballers mingling around me. They don’t want me, they want the ball.
I try to pass, to relieve myself of the responsibility, the prospect of loosing, but I can’t see anyone to pass to and the thought of letting this one go is too much.
“In the goal Sam, in the goal.” My granddads voice carries over the others, I try to ignore him, I really do, but even I can see he’s right. The goals there, a clear path before me, stretching directly to the goal.
My foot goes back in one clean sweep and then it’s there, it’s behind the goalie.
My team mates pile themselves on top of me, elbows digging into my ribs, my back. A sensation that although overpowering, it’s a feeling that I’m familiar with.
My granddads face is there when I’m unloaded of the bodies. He’s there rapped up in his electric blanket, his slippers still firmly settled on his unmoving feet. I try not to, but the sneers on my face before it lets me think twice and the voice inside my head, telling me he failed, is as loud as ever. My granddad was going to make it. He was going to be the exception. He was going to make everyone proud.
That’s what he says.
I can feel the blood pumping through my body, an adrenalin rush that only helps me, one that keeps me fit and on task.
Suddenly the cheering, freezing crowds have submerged into one speeding image, the ball and goal transfixed in time.
I just have to bring the ball home.
‘It’s not that easy’ people say, but for me, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be. All you have to do, is take risks. Play the game. Be the best you can be.
My fiancée’s standing in the crowds and she is the first person to start whooping when the ball finally gets home. I run and lift her into a hug, her feet dangling against my bare shins. Her face, rosy from the wind, bright from the kiss, is the first I want to see after every victory.
“well done my lad.” My granddad shuffles over and gingerly thumps me on the back. I nod at him, a gesture so little it’s hard to notice. My granddad comes to everyone of my matches, even when no one else does and he has to catch the late bus. I think he once wanted to be a footballer, but then he had kids, got older and then forgot about it.
“Well done Charlie.”
I turn back to sally and kiss her again. I can feel my granddads discomfort behind me.
I’m not going to be like him. I am going to make it.
Sam, my grandson shuffles of with his team mates, sweeping past me without even giving me that small curtsy of a pat on the back. His eyes are as guarded, as unforgiving as mine had been to my granddad. Can’t he see the similarity of the two of us?
Can’t he see I was once him?
Can’t he see that?