As my 40th birthday looms ever nearer day by day, I often try to sit back and wonder where those forty years have disappeared to. However I cannot sit back, as the footballer Pele broke my arse...let me explain.
As a young boy growing up on a council estate on what can only be described as the shittest island in the world...Canvey, I needed a release, I needed to look elsewhere for my dreams. Those dreams were found invariably on the television. What things attracted a naive ten year old, was it the cheeky grin of one of Bruce's dolly dealers on Play your Cards right, unlikely. Maybe now if one of them smiled on the television, I'd think "cor she's a bit of alright"...but back then it was football goals, and the more spectacular the better. I'd see a goal and I'd want to replicate it the next day at school or on a Sunday morning where I was the hot-shot for the local team. If you wanted a goal scored, than I was the man. Well 10 year old boy..but you understand the sentiment.
Back in 1984 I was a gangly git. All skin and bones, my Grandad used to call me a Biafran. No idea what he meant. Looking back it's highly racist, but these were simpler times. As I grew older my body shape moved round the African continent and I was being called an Ethiopian in my early teens, this was done to my face, or more hurtfully on my schoolbooks by some of the older kids. Could the fuckers spell Ethiopian then, could they fuck. I knew how to. I had the last laugh. Anyway the gangly-ness...god I could head a ball. Get that ball in the penalty area and I would head it. I towered over kids my own age. I was 1984's Peter Crouch. Then I saw this goal, and I realised I didn't need to head the ball in the air.
What a fucking ridiculous header. I lapped it up. I thought I have to try this. When the ball comes in the box, no defender is going to think someone is going to head that. Too right they didn't. It was a fortnight after seeing this goal, that the opportunity arose. The ball was dribbled across the box and I flung myself at the ball head first...my head connected with the ball..my face connected with the mud which always smelt of shit on Canvey, but also a defender's boot connected with my face. I had a lump the size of Biafra on my head, but I didn't care. I had scored a goal just like Andy Gray's. In my head I was a legend, to everyone else I was a prick who headed the ball one foot off the floor.
My heading was beyond renown, but I needed to add more to my game. If the ball came into the penalty area then most of the opposition would think he's going to head it. Well I needed another string to my bow, the last thing I wanted to be was predictable. Whilst watching Sportsnight one morning before school. Yes before school. Taped on a betamax video player the size of a smartcar. I still remember the day my Dad brought that videoplayer home from work..I'm sure we had to open the back window to get it in the house. Anyways, Mark Hughes scored this volley, well it's not a volley, I'm not sure how you describe it to this day. Here it is.
Just imagine the other kid's faces when I pull that bad boy off on a Sunday morning. Off to the back garden I went to practice. Now the problem with having a younger sister is they aren't much good for having proper games of football, but they are marginally ok for throwing the ball in the air so you can practice your volleys. Try as hard as I could, I just could not pull of the "Hughes volley". Nevermind when the moment arises in a future match I'm sure I'll be fine I thought. You know what happened, I never tried it. That ball flew into the box plenty of times, but I just headed everything. Not once did I leap sideways in the air and take off a-la Sparky.
As I grew older, the other kids started to catch up with my height. There were now plenty of contenders to be the gangliest kid in the area. In fact I don't think I was anymore. I was an also ran. I was still deadly in the penalty box, but headers now were very much 50/50. Around this time I was introduced to the film Escape to Victory. What a movie. Even now I could quite happily sit down and watch that, whilst ignoring the gaping plot holes in the movie. When you get to the age of about 13/14 you're basically a berk, who will try anything to impress his mates. As you look back you think why the fuck did I even try that, I could have done some real damage, but at the time you want to be the man. Pele scored a bicycle kick in Escape to Victory after suffering a heart attack. It was the stuff of legends. Me and my mates fucking loved that goal. So much so that we used to practice it on a concrete playground at lunchtimes.
You see when that music kicks in. In the playground we would take turns in humming that music as one of us practiced doing that bicycle kick. What a bunch of twats. Have you ever landed on concrete on your lower back say five times in thirty minutes. It hurts. But we didn't think of the long-lasting damage it would do. I vividly remember one of the group, pulling off that bicycle kick whilst eating a cream doughnut. What a man. Last I heard he was still living at home with his parents, but what a man.
I know what you're all wondering, did I manage the bicycle kick. Of course I did but to, as I found out, irrepairable damage to my arse, or what the medical profession call the coccyx. As I moved to my later teens, I found that anytime I bent over for a lengthy period of time...stop sniggering, my lower back just seized up. "Aah this is just a twinge" I thought it will soon pass. Well it never did, and when you've spent a week in bed at the age of 20 with a bad back, you think fucking hell I've done well to get to nearly 40.
Around the age of 25, I was still playing Sunday football, but by now the back was causing constant gip with any physical activity, my goalscoring days were a thing of the past, and I was now an adequate (in my head) left back. To everyone else I was hopeless. I didn't enjoy playing, it was tiresome. I was playing in a defence which generally was still pissed from the night before and in front of the worst goalkeeper I've ever seen in my life. Sundays were a chore.
Then a goal happened which took me back to my childhood. Last game of the season. Last minute of a game his side needed to win to get into the Champions League...Rivaldo did this
I was a man inspired. I thought there is no-way I can manage this in the opposition's penalty box, but surely I can pull out the bicycle kick when defending for old time's sake. When you get a bit wiser, you can manufacture circumstances so they go in your favour. So I did it. The ball fell to me thirty yards from our own goal, which I was facing...I headed the ball up in the air, and then pulled off the Rivaldo bicycle kick, all the time humming the Pele music in my head. I landed on my arse and got carried off, never to play football again.
So there you have it kids, don't try and replicate your heroes it all only ends up in pain and misery.