Football Mum was at the door, an expensive craft beer in one hand, and a tall glass of pink grapefruit juice in the other.
‘How did it go?’ she enquired, a little hesitantly.
She could normally gauge the result within four or five seconds. Football Dad’s face always gave it away.
‘7-0!’ screeched the Youngest One, sailing through the door with a hop and a skip.
‘We pumped them 7-0! Oh, but Mum, that town stank sooooooo bad.’
Football Dad explained: ‘Sewage outfall into the harbour, disgusting but necessary, I guess. Tide washing at one corner of the pitch. Parents sucking on RTDs at 11am.’
‘7-0! Woop woop woop!’: Another declaration from the daughter, who promptly ditched her boots and bag right bang-slap in the middle of the kitchen floor, swiped the drink from her mother’s hand and tore off to the other end of the house to share the news with her sibling.
Football Dad slumped in a couch, kicked off his sneakers, and flicked his hat in the general of the coat rack.
A long, satisfying draw on his beer, as his wife joined him. ‘Ahhhhhhhh … thanks, babe.’
He reached for the battered little notebook in his bag, and leafing through a few pages, began scribbling. Match details, full-time score, the name of the kids who had managed goals. A note or two on things to work on with specific kids. Next to his own child’s name, he wrote two words: ‘Fitness. Courage.’
Football Mum leaned over and looked at the notes.
‘Don’t be hard on her. She’s trying. You know she doesn’t have the other one’s athletic gifts. Just work with what you’ve got.’
A reassuring hand on the shoulder: ‘She will learn. She’ll learn that she either has to try a bit harder, or she needs to give it away and try something else. Look at her now, she’s stoked.’
Another squeal from the end of the house – ‘7-0! I mean, really!’ – as the shower was turned on. Moments later, a small football strip flew from the bathroom door, and into the hallway.
Football Dad nodded, slowly. Another lengthy chug on his beer, which by now was only a third full.
The Eldest One emerged from her bedroom, smiling and slinking into the living room.
‘She score?’ the lanky one asked.
‘Came close!’ exclaimed Football Dad, a grin spreading across his face. ‘A nice turn to beat a defender, little 20-yard dash down the flank, then a wee one-two with the Indian lad….she got to the corner of the box, but ever-so-slightly toe-poked it, and it bounced off the post. She was unlucky.’
Football Mum leaned across and grabbed the notebook and pen.
She looked Football Dad square in the eye.
‘I think we need to make a little edit here,’ she said.
She crossed out the words ‘fitness’ and ‘courage’ and replaced them with one word.
She nudged him with her elbow and handed back his notebook.
‘That’s a note for you.’
Main photo: Credit unsplash.
More Football Dad columns
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.