Trigger warning: Contains nothing about the election.
I’ll put my hand up here. Nae apologies or concessions to my feminine side. I love football. It’s a tough confession for a working class Scottish male to make but that’s it said, got it off my chest. Not just ensconced on the sofa either, with a cold tinny and salty snacks, but the real deal, at the weekends, in the stands with my mates. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I live for it – Hibernian FC would exploit and torture and punish you for that – but I am an addict. Sitting in the stands with pie and bovril, giving referees dog’s abuse, while discussing the finer points of Pasolini movies. That’s what it’s aw about. Community, pies, vitriol and culture.
Football is ingrained into your psyche as a kid. Or at least it was when I was growing up. Back then you played football every day. In the school playground, in swing parks, on pitches, in yer back garden. It didn’t matter as long as there was at least one other kid to kick a ball around with. Many happy hours were spent in deserted garages playing headie-football in the snow or even practicing keepy-uppies on my own. If you didn’t have a football a tennis ball would do fine. I wasn’t particularly good at football, a few tricks and flicks, and I was way too lazy to train and shirked the tougher tackles, but I always enjoyed a good kick about.
I’m now at an age where most guys have hung up their boots and their playing days are fading into rose-tinted memories. What could have been. This is the time of life when middle-aged men sign their kids up to junior teams so they can vent their frustrations from the touchline. And everyone knows kids just love watching their dads making a tit of themselves, swearing at referees, or squaring up to other parents. Maybe its a Scottish father-son bonding thing, I dunno. Making sure the next generation are as fucked up as the one before.
My kids are still too young for aw that nonsense. Alarmingly, one of them shows zero interest in football and prefers art, drawing and reading books. But I’m confident the education system will knock it out of him. However, the allure of running onto a football pitch – and I don’t mean if/when Hibs beat The Rangers in the Scottish Cup final on 21st May – hasn’t quite gone. I still fancy one last crack at it. Not a stroll about with other dodderies but a proper game. Nets and everything. For old times sake.
I’ve been told by those close to me – as they hilariously impersonate heart attacks – that this may be the least clever idea I’ve had since a certain hash cafe. It’s true there’s a few obstacles to be overcome. I’m 54. I’ve only played one 11-a-side game in the last 20 years. Most of the exercise I’ve had in the last few decades has been in night clubs. I’ve over-swallied since I was in my teens. I’ve smoked thousands of joints. And I’ve been a long time enthusiast for late night kebabs and Storries pies.
On the plus side I reckon there’s enough residual fitness purely from inherited genes that could still be teased into working order. A couple of months of training every day might do it. Plus stretching exercises every morning and night. Maybe an occasional run. I’d need to cut out the booze, smokes and junk food. And the chocolate and cakes. Especialy the chocolate. Basically, live like a monk and avoid everything that is brilliant about life to do something totally and utterly pointless.
A couple of days ago I got an email from the most excellent crime writer Doug Johnstone asking if anyone was up for an 11-a-side match in Glasgow on Sunday 26th June. Scottish Writers FC versus Scotland Comic Creators FC. So I thought, fuck it, what’s to lose. I might raise a few quid sponsorship for the Bella coffers. At the very worst I might break an ankle, or a leg, and never be able to walk again without a hirple. In return it’d give me the chance to try the straight life for a couple of months, as well as an opportunity to write a self-indulgent column every week, reporting back on my progress. So to cut a long story short; the boots are down from the attic. The Bella sponsorship thing is getting set up. Game on.