Imagined from above, the sports fields that remain sit dotted across the once great city. Shaped oblong in defiance to tower blocks resting under the metal cocoons of air conditioning units that rise where once all was green fields. So long ago, if at all. If at all.
The sports fields sit unannounced, no signs, posters, notes or heralds, just off-white posts and pillars erected with monotony each season by workmen different each year, outsourced by those outsourced by the council, to offer some regard to the admirable support of outdoor play, the sports fields of England that once made boys to fill the trenches and die.
Some Sundays, or a Saturday in summer, a volunteer dad will pace the lines out, hang the netting, and note, to himself, how he does more than his fair share. And then they start to arrive, the home team as ignorant of the deep hidden desire of their fathers to become something great because they never did. Themselves. As tribal as the loyal supporters of the local team just down the road there, the parents stand carefully apart from the opposition side, the boys in that team always so much bigger than their own which doesn’t make things fair really does it?
Like the real football where the dads arrive at 2pm and drink three pints (no more) then take their standing places as they always have done, and imagine their son, their only son, one day stepping out onto the pitch of the local team as he does in surly disinterest that Sunday morning, or Saturday in summer, to face the opposition.
The ref. The referee. A skinny boy, just a lad to the dads but to the boys someone in authority, some years ahead in school. Not to be shouted at, abused, cajoled or ridiculed. Until it’s needed. After the smokes have come out, when the offside (he was clearly offside) was missed, when the goal was allowed just because they’re kids and how are they going to learn if the referee lets them away with it?
A bitter taste is left once more, the score not the score that should have been, could have been, would have been if only the boy had pulled his socks up, worked that bit harder, listened to his dad screaming froth from the sideline, said the dad to the boy trailing along behind him, coughing into the smoke in the wake of his father’s anger.
He could have made it. Fuck.