Having been delayed by 20 minutes by Raj From India’s motion sickness, Football Dad’s van screeched into the car park at Small Seaside Town FC with kick-off less than quarter of an hour away.
The kids were piling out of the van before it had actually come to a complete stop.
Football Dad surveyed Small Seaside Town FC’s well-worn home track. It was known colloquially across the federation as ‘The Rocky Dunny’.
Perched on a tiny isthmus poking out from the town’s main street, it sloped noticeably toward the ocean side. About 150 metres across the water – the entry to the small harbour – the town’s sewage main discharged into the water. The prevailing wind from the ocean blew the smell right across the football field.
Hence, ‘The Rocky Dunny’.
Raj From India took one lungful of the foul air, dropped his bag, doubled over, and stumbled into a nearby portable toilet.
Small Seaside Town FC’s coach bustled up to Football Dad, resplendent in bright red Adidas track pants and the only officials’ jacket the club had ever managed to finance …
in 1987. It was meant to be a Rugby World Cup 1987 memorial edition, but a mis-stitching debacle at the manufacturers ensured Small Seaside Town FC had picked them up for a fiver each, and paid an additional $10 for a patch with the club’s logo to be sewn over the error.
‘Maaaate! Welcome!!!’ hollered Seaside Town FC’s coach.
‘Bloody hell, ya made it! Thought for a while there you’d gone off the road on the incline! I’m Aubrey, but the kids call me “Coach”. Ya’d never pick it, would ya!’
A fat orange hand had extended forward enthusiastically. With reluctance, but an acute sentence of politeness, Football Dad shook the man’s huge mitt. A handshake more like a vice grip, scrunching Football Dad’s fingers.
‘10 minutes ‘til kickoff,’ noted Seaside Town FC’s coach, about-facing with military precision and marching off to a group of vaguely-uniformed children taking turns chopping each other down well after the ball had moved on.
‘You lot, fall in! Shooting practice in t-minus one minute!’
Football Dad rounded up his charges.
‘The pitch is sloped,’ remarked one.
‘What’s the smell?’ asked a second.
‘Am I goalie?’ queried a third.
‘And if he’s goalie, I must be striker!’ demanded a fourth.
The rancid air made Football Dad gasp: ‘Usual formation …’ he spluttered, ‘4-4-2.’
Raj From India began bashing on the back of the Port A Loo’s door. Short Pudgy Kid was leaning against it, casually doing up his boots.
‘Whateva …’ he muttered, deliberately wasting time as his teammate hollered for fresh air.
Football Dad looked back across to the ocean, peering into the distance.
From the corner of his eye, he spotted a medium-sized wave lapping at one corner of the pitch. The corner flag – actually a broom handle with triangular rag stapled to it – was barely a foot away from the 3-foot drop to the beach.
A second wave washed onto the pitch.
Seaside Town FC’s coach shouted from the far end of the field.
‘Forgot to mention – tide’s coming in! Probably need to kick off soon!’
Main photo credit: 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.