Summer reading: Football Dad and the need for touch and pass

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Half of small Seaside Town’s population had shown up for the game.

‘Cheeeeeeeehooooooo!’ screeched a tattooed and patched member of the local bikie gang, swigging from a bottle of home-brew in his left hand.

‘Ranginui! Ranginui! What are you doing, you egg? Your team’s goin’ the other way, boy!’

Football Dad looked nervously across at his charges, who were fanning out across the park.

‘Remember what we spoke about, kids!’ he hollered. ‘Spreading on attack, compressing on defence. Defenders, looking over your shoulders to see where the opposition attackers are when they press. Touch and pass, touch and pass.’

‘Fish and chips if we win by more than two goals!’ yelled Seaside Town FC’s coach, a retort of sorts.

Resplendent in khaki shorts, a black Lion Red sweater, and steel-capped boots, the pensioner-come-ref blew a sharp burst on the whistle.

Football Dad’s team created a reasonable opening movement, which led – somewhat astonishingly – to a shot on goal from one of his attackers, the irrepressible Short Fat Kid.

‘Hey,’ he blurted, having swept past a defender and to the edge of the 18-yard box.

‘This ball is flat!’ he announced to all and sundry, turning swiftly toward the nearby ocean and kicking it into the long grass no more than a metre from the sideline.

‘That, I am afraid … is bullshit!’ he wailed.

‘Oiiiiii!’ yelled Football Dad, in as Sergeant-Majorly as he could. ‘Language, son, there’s younger kids present. I’ll tell your mother.’

A waft from the town’s sewage discharge pipe drifted across the pitch, aided and abetted by the westerly that blew right up the little harbour.

‘Gross, Dad,’ remarked the Youngest One to her father. ‘That smell. That is disgusting.’

She always switched wings at half-time – Football Dad’s rationale was that it ‘confused the opposition’. Truth was he just wanted her close to him, nearer for instructions she always followed … but never quite nailed, technically speaking.

The game, of course, had ground to a halt. A shrill blast from the whistle, as the kids looked puzzled. On the opposite sideline, an even larger member of the local bikie gang methodically worked his way through seven or eight tired old footballs – estimated to be 15 years old.

‘Awww, bro,’ mourned the gang member. ‘You’re not gonna believe it, coach – they all flat!’

Slowly, with an arc as beautiful as an Andrea Pirlo free kick, Football Dad’s hand moved toward his face.


‘Raj,’ he muttered to the Indian lad, dropping a perfectly-pressurised near-new Nike ball at his feet. ‘They need a ball – run this on.’

In the far left-hand corner, a 2-foot wave crashed ashore, centimetres from the corner flag.

Another blast on the whistle from the dishevelled ref, and finally – after the vomiting, the flat balls, the kid stuck in the toilet, and then a flat ball – the annual fixture was underway.

‘C’mon, red!’ yelled Football Dad at his motley bunch. ‘We have not bloody come here to lose!’

Main photo: Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

READ MORE: Enjoy more Football Dad columns here >>>>

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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