Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Beautiful Game

...The sun had persuaded me stop by the 7-a-side pitch to watch the game instead of get on with my work. The birdsongs confirmed I'd made the right choice. The game was about to start when someone shouted over to me. One team was a man short and I was asked to play. Wearing my leather shoes, heavy sweater and smart trousers I left my bags and the afternoon behind and took to the pitch. Almost all the players were Italian and didn’t speak much English. It couldn't have been more stereotypical… Shouting, swearing in Italian to saints and mothers, gesturing elaborately and making pleas with their hands to an imaginary referee who, for some reason, they kept calling 'Madonna'… The bosses shouted at the kitchen staff whenever they didn't pass the ball, every bad tackle resulted in endless rolling on the ground and, at one point, there was a frantic, fifteen minute debacle because someone apparently took the free-kick too quickly (only the English chefs didn’t' take part in the discussion, they sat down and got comfortable as soon as the familiar drama began to unfold.)

And the English talk of “the beautiful game”! Never before have I seen everyone so involved, so engaged with every kick and mis-kick of the ball, every header and every attempted pass. I was drenched with sweat and admiration by the time I left. I walked home alone, eating a pie. The Italians no doubt congregated together at one of their restaurants to continue deliberating the free-kick decision and argue with their hands about how long it's taken to pass the salt...