Summer reading: Football Dad and the nine-year-old’s goal on debut

Football Dad’s foot stank.

Hunched in a kitchen chair, he slowly peeled off a mud-and-water-soaked Merino sock.

‘Yuck,’ he muttered, followed quickly by a word that rhymed … with multiple meanings.

‘We wonnnnnnnn!!!!!!’ screamed the Youngest One, tearing through the kitchen faster than she had moved all morning. ‘Maaaaammmmaaaaaaa … we won, and I scored a goal!!!!!! And I smashed this really horrible girl in a tackle!’

The stinky sock was down past Football Dad’s ankle. The dog – believed responsible for the six bite marks in Football Dad’s left gumboot – was nowhere to be seen.

‘I scored a gooaaaaaaalllllllll!’

The excited girl ran through the house again, slid across the kitchen floor, and in one motion swung open the fridge door, grabbing the 2-litre juice bottle just a little too precariously for Football Dad’s liking.

Football Mum appeared at the kitchen door, looking puzzled.

‘Really?’ whispered Football Mum. ‘She scored a goal? Really?’

Football Dad nodded, half-smiling.

They’d spoken about it the night before, in bed.

Neither parent thought she was capable, not in her first game anyway.

‘Won’t happen,’ Football Mum had said. ‘Not from what I have seen.’

‘Seriously, odds are massive,’ Football Dad had chuckled. ‘She only managed one in 10 attempts against the ‘keeper at training last night.’

An excited, confident, glowing, beautiful 9-year-old slammed the fridge door with added conviction, grabbing a banana from a bowl.

‘You owe me 20 bucks,’ she said, pointing an accusatory banana at Football Dad. ‘You said yesterday morning … “$20 if you score on debut, darling”…you did, you did, you said that.’

The wet sock hit the floor with a squelch. To Football Dad – hangover downgraded to a seven out of 10 – it still sounded like a sonic boom.

‘Did you not think I could do it, Dad?’

That question. And then the eyes.

A lump in the throat.

‘Shower time for goal-scorers,’ said Football Mum, shepherding the mud-caked child down the hallway. ‘C’mon dear.’

The Eldest One emerged at the other end of the kitchen, clad in a dressing gown and a towel wrapped around her head.

‘How does a kid with two left feet score?’ she hissed, oozing teenage bad attitude. ‘I set up three goals for Charlotte today. Third one, she had nothing on without me giving her that perfect pass outside the box.’

Football Dad groaned.

‘Sweetheart … ,’ he started. ‘She’s nine. It’s her first game. Be kind. Don’t let your frustrations ruin her day.’

The Eldest One changed the subject, embarrassed.

‘I scored a goooooallllllll!’ came the muffled cry from the bathroom, inserting itself boldly into the conversation.

‘I need new boots,’ the teenager demanded. ‘There are some new Nike Mercurial out, and oh Dad…they perfectly match my strip.’

Football Dad groaned again, cast off a damp jacket, followed by a sweater, and further down the hall, his pants.

The Eldest One took her chance to groan.

‘Ewww, Dad, that’s gross! Yucky yucky yucky’

‘I need sleep … the boots … ,’ he mumbled, stalled. ‘Go with your mother. I must sleep. Get your sister her $20.’

From the bathroom, another yelp: ‘A goallllllllllll! I scored a goal … yeeeeyahhhhhh!’

About Football Dad

Football Dad is a collection stories by Waikato writer and football fan Jeff Neems. The full collection of stories appear in an ebook you can buy here through Amazon.

Football Dads are everywhere … and not just in football.

They’re the parent who volunteers to help with their kids’ sports team – or who are left with the job when other parents go missing. This well-crafted volume of amusing columns comes from a father who has spent many hours travelling to and from games, tirelessly helping his kids as they take up The Beautiful Game.

Through Football Dad you’ll meet the oddballs he meets on the sidelines and in the clubrooms. Many a parent will recognise these characters … and smile.

Football Dad’s collection of stories were originally published in the award-winning football magazine The Range, published by WaiBOP Football. They have also appeared in FANZ, the official magazine of Friends of Football.

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