Last Thursday night I headed out to the football pitch (aka the school yard soccer field covered in dirt & sand) to play my first game of our new Spring season. I arrived to find a squad of U21 guys that was nearly 20 members deep ready to play against our 11 member "aged" squad who was mostly interested in the Canucks game.
We've pretty much resigned ourselves to a night of being run into the ground but our team is in good spirits and just wanting to play some football.
10 minutes in I send a ball between their defenders where our winger (who has spent the last 2 season nursing a host of injuries) runs onto it like Ryan Giggs, sidesteps the remaining defender and slots it home. Advantage: old guys.
Their tackles get harder. They start mouthing off a little more. It's obvious that they weren't used to being on the receiving end.
They start lighting up shots. Our keeper, despite his Liverpool tattoo (which has me always questioning his ability to play the game!) , is able to make some of the most amazing saves I've seen in a rec game.
The half ends with us up 1-0 and knowing that the second half would be much harder than the first. With another 45 minutes looming I would imagine that most of us would have been happy to escape with a draw.
The second half gets underway their testosterone-driven aggressive play is taken to a new level. More tackles. More mouthing off. Cards are being handed out. Our guys hold on and tackle back, letting them know that we're not going to be pushed around by some young punks.
They score to tie it up. Advantage (unfortunately): young punks. Discouraged, but not without some faith in our own skills, we keep on plugging away.
They mistime clearing a ball out of the box and one of our midfielders runs onto it to slip it past the keeper. Advantage (once again): old guys.
This is where things go from insane to stupid. They start making more comments about us and how we play. As we start to cramp up (remember, we're old) they complain about time wasting and tell us to carry guys off the field, as if we have some sort of medical staff and stretcher.
Then one of their players makes a racial comment towards one of our defenders.
Unreal. I haven't heard such garbage on the soccer pitch.
I credit our team with not enforcing martial law right there on the spot.
It's time to end it. With the game finally resuming, a ball gets pushed through the back and the race is on. I'm not as quick as I once was but I manage to keep free of the defender and get into the box.
The keeper is rushing out as ready to tuck it to his left.
A shoulder comes crashing into me from behind.
I stay on my feet to watch the ball bounce off the keeper, then off the defender and out the back of the field. Opportunity squandered!
But then I hear the whistle.
I look back and see the official pointing to the penalty spot.
It would appear that we just got the benefit of the doubt after a game filled with nonsense. I'm not convinced I was fouled. I wasn't even looking for one. But we'll take it.
I pass off the potential scoring opportunity to another teammate due to my inconsistency and lack of confidence about scoring from the spot. (Give me the ball 20 yards out and I'll gladly have a go. Let me line up on the spot and I find a way to overthink it and miss.)
Next thing we know the ball is in the back of the net with a shot hard enough that it would have knocked the keeper over if he had been anywhere close to it.
Advantage: old guys.
In an anticlimactic moment, with less than 3 minutes on the clock, the field lights went off (thanks to the late starting & late ending coed game played before us!) and left us up 3-1. We were forced to abandon the match. And in what can only be a moment of both great timing and bad luck, we were unable to shake hands.
We were able to escape without more verbal abuse.
But we were also unable to shake their hands with that grin on our face as we remind them that a bunch of old guys can still let the football do the talking.