28/02/2016: FA People’s Cup Semi-Finals, Shoreditch

Once upon a time there was a young man who lived in a place far far away called “Shoreditch”. It was a vile horrid place full of monsters and demons but this young man grew up to be fair and honest if somewhat mentally challenged. For purposes of the story we will call him “Gordon”.  Gordon had one ambition in life. He desperately wanted to be a referee but the nearest he got to that was cleaning the toilets at a local sports centre.

Now one day, the boss of the said sports centre called him in. For the purposes of the story we will call him “Frank”. He was not fair or honest or even vaguely nice.

 “Hi Gordon” said Frank in his harsh scouse accent.  “Hi Frank” said Gordon in his soft attractive cockney accent.

” Will you do me a big favour, chuck” snarled Frank. “Of course gov, name it… but I am not cleaning those toilets again gov…not until you get me a brush. Last time I got mess in me barnet”

“No … not that … tomorrow we are running a walking football tournament. I want you to referee one of the games.”  “But gov I know fuck all about walking football me old mucker.”

Frank harshly scoffed at this. “Well, who does? The FA are running it and we know what FA stands for.”

Gordon wondered what first aid had to do with it but had a more pressing problem. “But gov” he said “I might make a terrible cock up and cost some poor geezers a place in the finals.” said Gordon.

“Look ….if you get into trouble just blow your whistle and, if the worst gets to the worst, tell them they scored a great goal” said Frank.

Just then Frank’s secretary walks in. For our purposes we will call her Lorraine and imagine that she was extremely buxom with long, silky, stocking-clad legs that rustled as she slid across the room.  She spoke in a soft Dundee accent, not unlike a certain presenter who graces our morning TV.

“Boss” purred Lorraine “… you can’t let Gordon referee tomorrow. You know he has problems with his eyes and, no offence Gordon, but you are a fucking moron.”

“That’s all right my love” said Gordon, flexing his braces. “Fair call. I agree. If I could only see you I would shake your hand”. In truth he did make a terrible attempt to shake what he thought was Lorraine’s hand, missed and six months later ended up facing a suspended jail sentence.

Anyway, Frank was adamant and next day Gordon, dressed in borrowed refereeing clothes gingerly felt his way all over to the football pitches. The matches had already started. He couldn’t quite make out the red of BayCity Strollers but he found his way to the pitch by following the sounds of profuse swearing, bones breaking and cries of pain.

As it happened, The Strollers were doing OK. They had won their first match (coming from behind in true Thanet style) and narrowly lost their second. They were still in with a chance. So to their third game. The one in which he would officiate. The one with “The Goal”.

It turned out to be a tense end-to-end affair. Gordon did his best. In truth he had no idea what he was doing but he blew his whistle from time to time and shouted “running” and “foul” every so often. It seemed to satisfy everyone. There was only a few minutes to go. He took a long breath. It looked like he had got away with it.

Then came “The Goal”. In a blur Gordon could see that the ball was passed out of the BayCity defence to their winger who then fired in a low cross. At that moment Gordon was distracted. No one will ever know why. Maybe the sound of a passing ice cream van. Maybe some random thought about Lorraine’s sexy, soft, silky thighs and the way her ample breasts filled her blouse, threatening at any moment to burst the buttons clean off.

Whatever it was he switched off for a while. When he came back the ball was in the net and the Thanet players were celebrating. He called time and watched them leave the field. He felt bad. He could see the goal meant a lot to them. He had to say something. But what? Just then he remembered what Frank had said. He turned to the player he thought had scored.

“That was the best goal of the tournament” he said, and then grasping at further straws.  “Maybe the best goal I have ever seen … .“ For the goal scorer this was high praise indeed. He walked away smiling. Sadly the effect on the rest of the team was not so positive.

Now they too desperately craved the same praise.  All they could hear were those words: “The BEST goal EVER”. The phrase resounded in their ears and got into their brains. They tried everything to catch the referee’s eye and gain similar words of encouragement. But the more they tried the less well they played. They crumpled and lost their last two games.

In a desperate attempt to shine, their goalie even resorted to trying to score with a header whilst lying on the pitch from his own goal area. A bold move indeed but one that, in truth, was always going to end in a disastrous own goal. It was this goal that ultimately proved to be the reason BayPoint did not progress to the semi-finals and a shot at glory in the finals.

The moral of the story is don’t take everything at face value ….or ….a bird in the hand is worth two in Lorraine’s bush.  

Lawrence Hall‑Daniels

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