Vertical rain drove across the park in Small Rural Town.
Football Dad trudged wearily along, his gumboots squelching through the mud.
The Youngest One gripped his hand tightly: ‘This field’s a bit soggy,’ she observed. ‘I can’t even see the lines on this pitch.’
Football Dad tried to take a gulp of his takeaway coffee. It burnt his tongue.
The Youngest One was bursting with excitement, despite the underfoot conditions and incessant precipitation.
‘What’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen? I’m gonna get muddy,’ she remarked.
Weird Lady was in the distance, flapping her arms and trying to direct the traffic of 10 kids.
A boom of thunder overhead as Football Dad and The Youngest One got nearer the team.
‘Oooooooohhhhh … thunder!’ screeched The Weird Lady. ‘That’s exciting!’
A brave mother, clad head to toe in yellow wet weather gear and freezing worker’s white gumboots, tried to offer advice just as Football Dad reached the group: ‘You might want to get them warmed up – it’s wet and cold. I don’t want my son getting sick.’
Weird Lady ignored her completely.
Football Dad pulled The Youngest One aside: ‘Okay. Don’t be nervous. Stay calm. Remember what we talked about – pay attention to the game, try hard, stick with the kid you’re marking. You remember what marking is, don’t you?’
‘Yes!’ she said gleefully. ‘That’s the player who is in the other team who is kinda like my partner, but who I want to get the ball off. Right?’
‘You got it,’ said Football Dad, a little tear welling up in his left eye. ‘You got it.’
The Youngest One made Weird Lady’s first starting line-up, assigned the hitherto unknown position of ‘outside rear left’.
‘Sounds like the location of a truck tyre,’ Football Dad muttered to himself as he watched The Youngest One meander to a position somewhere near the goalbox.
An extremely small man from Small Rural Town strode purposely onto the pitch, wearing the home club’s coaches jacket from approximately 1988.
‘Awwwwwwright kiddies,’ he bellowed in a Birmingham accent. ‘Let’s play fitbah!’
An unnecessarily long blast on his whistle signalled the start of The Youngest One’s debut match.
‘Go go go!’ screeched Weird Lady, accompanying her squawk with a further elaborate arm wave. ‘Off you go, get the ball. Get a goal, woohoo!’
Football Dad emitted another long, slow moan.
A flash of lightning and another loud crack of thunder overhead.
His headache – spawned by a very late night at the clubrooms at the annual poker tournament – worsened dramatically as the rain got harder.
This was going to be a very long 30 minutes.
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.