Summer reading: Football Dad and a seat on the bench

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Football Dad was determined not to get involved.

He stood on the opposite side of the field to all the other parents, fiddling with his phone nervously, trying not to be conspicuous.

Weird Lady kicked off her team’s first training with a dreadful rendition of Wheels on the Bus.

The Youngest One looked puzzled but sung along.

It felt like the Extended Mix — five minutes in and it was still going. Two kids had started wrestling on the ground before Weird Lady had taken any of the eight footballs out of the mesh bag.

‘Allllrightty!’ she roared with sickening enthusiasm. ‘Now we’re off the bus, let’s get moving. Two lines please, facing each other – there and there!’

For some unfathomable reason, the kids needed ‘to get those hands and arms going!’, she declared.

The Youngest One had a look of enthusiasm on her face, a glance toward her father.

‘Goalie,’ she mouthed, her eyes wide with joy. Football Dad nodded nervously, trying to smile.

Weird Lady, who was no lightweight, had an issue with her … ah … physicality. And co-ordination. And her all-bulges-showing choice of attire. Every time she moved at anything more than walking speed she looked in danger of tripping over in her gumboots.

‘And toss the ball to your partner!’ she yelled cheerily, arms out wide like Julie Andrews in that famous still image from The Sound of Music.

The scene was ridiculous. The Youngest One was fine – enough backyard sessions with the older sibling meant she could catch and throw – but some of the other children looked incapable of comprehending the instruction.

The two more athletic boys were firing the ball at each other in volleyball style. The fat kid kept throwing it as high in the air as he could, meaning the skinny kid standing on the other line had no hope of catching it.

One father bravely queried: ‘Don’t you think they should be kicking the ball?’

‘Oh no,’ screeched Weird Lady, her massive bosom heaving due to her lack of aerobic anything. ‘That’s in the second half of the training session.’

Football Dad was fighting an incredible urge to speak up.

‘C’mon, some of these kids are new,’ offered the other father. ‘Some haven’t been shown how to kick a ball.’

‘Ummmm … he’s got a point,’ added another mother, looking concerned. ‘My son has never played before. I think he needs to learn about the very basics.’

Football Dad muttered a stream of foul language no-one could hear.

‘Please,’ added the mother, brandishing an umbrella and an iPhone. ‘I think it would be sensible if, at the very least, they had a little game, just kicked the ball around.’

The Youngest One seized her opportunity.

‘I’ll be goalie,’ she yelled cheerily, running off to her bag. ‘Got some gloves already!’

Other kids used training bibs as tug-of-war ropes.

‘Boys versus girls!’ announced Weird Lady. ‘Boys versus girls!’

Football Dad could stand it no more. He turned angrily away from the field and stormed off to a park bench 35 metres away.

‘No idea,’ he thought to himself: ‘No bloody idea whatsoever.’

Main photo: Credit Hello I’m Nik / unsplash.

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About Football Dad

Football Dad is a collection of 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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