Out Of Joint

As usual, it’s been an odd few days.

The most recent farce has revolved around my football team. As normal. This time, after a match, a thug playing for the opposition side came over and punched my brother in the nose, breaking it.

I’ve never seen a broken nose before, despite it being one of the most common injuries people suffer. The blood was everywhere, and it took over two hours for it to stop. The perpetrator of the assault got away – but we are in the very fortunate position of having photos of him, having his name, and playing affiliated football against registered opposition, the player will be dealt with.

And not just by the local football association. No, we have gone to the police as well, and we will press charges. Might teach the fucker a lesson. No more than he deserves; he’s probably got away with it for years. A lot of these players are thugs, and they play sports as an excuse to get aggression out of their system, caring little for who they damage in the process. The whole event was so pre-meditated, and yet so cowardly, that my brother had no chance to defend himself. He was just struck hard on the nose. I saw it with my own eyes. It didn’t look that bad at first – but I can’t believe he had never done it before. Hopefully we can get him banned from football for life, because no other player should have the misfortunate to play against him again.

So that’s caused us no end of trauma in the past 24 hours. The annoying thing about it was that we had just won the game. It took a shine off everything, and now we don’t want to play any more. After the incident of the broken leg at Christmas, I’m starting to think someone is telling us we shouldn’t run a football team. We’re not allowed to have success. As soon as we get it – it’s taken away so cruelly.

Meanwhile, I’ve been desperately trying to find some work. I’ve entered into a serious lull at the moment with my business, so I’ve been looking for something part-time. No luck. I even contacted a former employer. Something might still happen, and I’m desperate for a response, but I hate the waiting. It’s just horrible.

Of course, the whole thing would be academic if my failure of a business actually did something. I’m starting to think my phone has been disconnected. Maybe it was a bad idea to only have a mobile number? Some people don’t trust calling a random mobile. Somehow the landline just looks more trustworthy. It means there’s a physical presence of some kind. I would think more carefully about that, but the cost… unthinkable. I think that’s half my problem. I’m not prepared to spend money I don’t have.

Not much of an entrepreneur am I?

Simmering

Life has taken on such a rather intriguing state at the moment that I think “simmering” is the best word to describe it. It’s that state of being gently on the go… but at any moment the right sort of pressure will turn that into major action.

If only. I keep getting little jobs for work, helping fix computers here and there, but nothing major. Yet, I sense that there is a breakthrough just around the corner. Maybe this is more hope than expectation, but I really think that now I actually have a computer to sell, and a business model revolving around shifting cheap computers, we might actually be getting somewhere. The test now is to see whether Google Adwords really works…

Meanwhile, the football season draws to a close. It’s not been a good year for my youth team, they haven’t won a match yet. They’ve drawn a few, but they just don’t seem to have the bottle to see them out and get the win that they deserve. It’s not that they’re rubbish, well there are a few who are, but I think it’s been so long since they won that they just don’t know how to any more.

But this season has been useful for me. It’s given me a number of ideas for how we can go forward. And now I’m at the helm of this humble organisation, I intend to make a lot of changes to make it bigger. So there are some exciting times ahead. We just have to get around the sheer incompetence of the FA first, who have deleted my dad’s record from the club systems because they thought he was the same person as me. Thanks for that. And now their system has been broken for over a week.

So that one’s simmering along too. At any moment, it could burst into life.

Oh, if only it would. If only I had lots and lots to do. But then again, I’m not sure having lots to do on the youth football is necessarily a good thing. After all, it doesn’t pay me anything. In fact, if I were to use my A-Level business studies for once, I could even say that it has an opportunity cost in terms of the time I no longer have to pursue my business interests.

Not that there’s much to do right now. But, oh, there could be!

There’s even talk that one of my former customers wants me to get involved with his business idea. Well, they always say to have a number of irons in the fire. I could well do that too. I have the time for it. After all, these days I get up early every day, around 6:30am… and the mornings seem to drag if there’s nothing to do.

But if there’s nothing to do, I generally find something. And, in the theme of the subject of this post, it is almost always cooking of some kind. Yesterday, I baked a so called healthy flapjack. Healthy meaning no butter/margarine, no syrup and low sugar. I used two bananas and raisins, skimmed milk and an egg to stick it all together. And it tastes pretty good actually – very much like one of those breakfast cereal bars. Or like a Tracker. I haven’t had one of those for years.

My talent really does have no end…

On Death Row

There’s a certain something to be said for Sunday mornings. Sitting here, waiting. I’ve done the usual Sunday morning chores: which is almost always washing all the dishes from last night, because on Saturday night, no one here can be bothered to clean them. Fair enough, it’s my job. I don’t pay any keep, so I pay it in other ways.

But in reality it’s just a distraction. Something to keep my mind off the inevitable defeat that lurks around the corner. Yes, it’s football time again. And to complement it, despite it not having rained all week, it’s now pouring down outside. It’s as if the weather wants to join in with the overall feeling of melancholy.

Because it’s been the same every week this season. We haven’t yet won a game. We have come close to winning them, but we’ve either lost our nerve or failed to take our simple chances when they fell to us on a plate. We have drawn a couple, but a draw’s not good enough. We simply have to win. 

There’s no good reason why we haven’t won, in truth. We are as good as half of the teams we’re playing. I just think we don’t know how to win. We don’t have the mentality to cut teams apart and then protect our lead. We have to be made to work ludicrously hard in order to score just one goal, and then sometimes the opposition gets the benefit of a lucky bounce or a fluked deflection and they get a result with breathtaking ease.

Suffice it to say that it’s somewhat annoying by now. And it makes Sunday mornings such a depressing time. The inevitability of it all is what’s so frustrating. We get all our gear ready, get ourselves mentally prepared, and step out the door on the way to other thrashing. It is the unspoken truth. There are normally five of us, me, the manager, and three players. We don’t mention it, but we know what’s coming. 

It’s all so disappointing, really. And on top of all that, we’re now stuck in the middle of a petty political wrangle between the management of our league and the management of the local county FA. It’s not a nice spot to be in. It might all get resolved amicably, but even if it does, the bad blood is now so much that we wouldn’t want to be part of this league. 

If all goes how I hope it would, then there may be another opportunity around the corner. A rather more exciting one. I’ve decided that what my life is missing is a big project. I want to be tested with a large scale piece of work, something that I can work hard on and dedicate my present existence to. I was hoping that would come with my business, but so far it’s not happening. Maybe in a couple of weeks, but not yet.

There is a chance that my league will fold, giving an opportunity to form a new one. A much better one, with proper organisation. I want to do that. I know I could do a much better job than the rubbish they throw at us on a regular basis. They’re all so incompetent, the kind of people that football tends to attract: brutish idiots who think that just because they can kick a ball they know all about the game. But they lack the critical organisation and intelligence skills that are necessary in order to administer a big project like this. 

If it happens, if the window opens, I will jump through it. But there’s still a lot of ifs, buts and maybes on the road ahead. We’ll see.

In the meantime, there’s a game to be a lost. The trapdoor is waiting to open. The noose is tight. Might as well get the obvious over with.

The Tearful Injury

As per my previous post the events of the past few days are still swirling around my head. They have been tempered somewhat since yesterday because we organised a get well card and went to see the injured player in hospital – this helped to clear things up and erase some of the haunting memories I had of the last time I saw him being in total agony and clearly very distressed about what the future had in store.

Things did come to a head for me yesterday, though. After having one of the worst night’s sleep in ages, lying awake for most of the night, I got up in the morning, exhausted from the constant churn of devastation. I could feel it building up. I had to get it out.

So when my mum came into the room and started asking about what the latest news was (as my dad had taken a phone call from the injured player earlier) I just burst into tears. It was awful. Then my mum joined in. My dad wasn’t there, but judging by his demeanour since the incident he has been depressed about it too. We’re all pretty cut up about it…

We resolved to do what we could to help, anything to try to make us feel a bit better. It turns out that he doesn’t have any immediate family that are any use, so when we said we wanted to visit him, his dad (who has had to stay at home throughout due to other family commitments) asked if we could take some stuff up to his mum, who had been at the hospital almost constantly since it happened. We were only too happy to help.

When we finally arrived we spent two hours talking, getting everything straight (the confusion about the incident itself was bad enough) and having a good laugh and a joke. It’s clear what happened was appalling for him, as every time he mentioned it he went gloomy, saying how terrible the pain and the unknown was. He’s obviously gutted about it, but he’s determined it won’t be the end of his playing career, and he’s still the same kid as before – bright, cheery, witty and optimistic for the future. The small matter of a cast from his toes to his thigh doesn’t seem to have got him down too much. At least, I hope not.

But most of all it’s answered a lot of my questions. It seems his operation wasn’t as bad as we first feared, and his ankle wasn’t broken in the incident after all – it had somehow gone out of place (but not dislocated?) as a result of the smashing of his tibia, just a couple of centimetres above his ankle. They had to “operate” in order to make sure everything was in the right place and fit the cast, because the pain was just too great doing it while he was still awake, but, fingers crossed, it’s all gone well, and the worst is now over.

There is the little matter that the cast is too heavy for crutches, so he’s wheelchair-bound for at least the next six weeks, but in total he will be out for four months or so. That’s going to be the longest four months of my life. The pain for me will ease day-by-day, as the necessity of other things in life comes along to change my priorities, but every waking moment of the kid will be taken up by this thing. I’m lucky. He’s not.

What have I learned from all this? Well… I’ve learned that I’m a pretty sensitive soul, emotionally wired up with the team I run. That’s not much of a surprise. I have been surprised at just how much it’s devastated me, though. I now know too that mistakes were made when the referee tried to remove the player’s boot in the early seconds after the incident. I hope he didn’t aggravate it, the idiot. I also know that slide tackling is a recipe for disaster if both players are sliding for the ball, but that seems to be a case of naivety on the part of our injured player for not recognising the danger, and not realising that he didn’t need to do it at all in the circumstances. I also know that shin pads probably ought to offer more protection for the side of the shin – in this case they didn’t, and that’s how he still broke it.

As a team, we will be taking out personal injury insurance, and we will now have to rebuild our squad looking to the future. We will also have to rebuild morale – not an easy challenge at all. We will also put in place a procedure to deal with an incident like this better; we couldn’t help but feel inadequate after what happened.

He gets out of hospital today, at last. That will be a major relief for all concerned. The long road to recovery will now begin. Let’s hope it does so with as good a Christmas as they can have under the circumstances.

I could definitely do with that.

Snapped

At more or less the time yesterday when WordPress was automatically publishing a post I’d pre-written and scheduled for the morning, I was standing in my usual spot, watching my football team. It was a surprise the matches went on for two reasons: 1) the weather had been poor prior to it, the pitches not in a good state, but on the day itself it wasn’t raining, so the league took a chance; 2) we normally have two weeks off for Christmas, but this year we’re going with one.

So we played football.

I wish we hadn’t.

Right now lying in hospital, undergoing an operation, is one of our players. One of my favourite players, to be exact. He has only recently joined us, but he has added hugely to our defence and our battling spirit. Plus, he’s bright, witty and very talkative. He has been an exceptional addition to our squad.

About 15 minutes into the second half, our player went sliding in to get the ball. Unfortunately, his opponent had also started sliding in. They collided. I didn’t actually see the smash, because at the critical moment another player had ran across my line-of-sight. But the instant reaction from all around was one of shock, and the gasp of horror at the crunching collision was audible. We knew immediately it was bad because he couldn’t get up. He started shouting in pain.

A crowd gathered around him, and it quickly became obvious that an ambulance was going to be needed. The poor fella had to lie on the ground for a disgraceful 40 minutes, with a bitter wind blowing constantly, while we waited for the ambulance to arrive (naturally the game was abandoned). We had a couple of first aid blankets to keep him warm, but he was obviously shivering and in danger of going into shock. We kept talking to him, but the feeling of total, utter helplessness was hard to keep away from my mind. One of the parents was a first-aider, but it’s irrelevant really when you’ve got a suspected broken leg. The only sensible thing was for him to stay perfectly still on the ground.

He braved it out, but the continual throbbing of pain resulting in him shouting was distressing for all concerned. You could see he was fighting back the tears. All the while, waiting, interminably waiting, we stood there, shocked ourselves, and in sheer disbelief about how long the ambulance was taking.

When the ambulance finally arrived the paramedics seemed in no hurry. They were lethargic and obstructive. They didn’t clear the crowds away. They put him in a wheelchair and had to be helped by members of the public to put him in it. No one knows why they didn’t use a stretcher, which would have been more ideal for making sure the injured leg didn’t move. The wheelchair itself didn’t seem to have sufficient support for a leg. Then they had to wheel it over bumpy terrain back to the ambulance, which clearly was causing even more pain to him. They stopped and started on their journey. The kid even had to support the bottle of N2O on his lap. The paramedics just didn’t seem to be very good. I feel terrible saying that, as I know these people are overworked and underpaid, but the events that transpired from when they arrived filled nobody with confidence that they were now firmly in control of the situation.

Since these events me, my brother (who plays in the team), and my mum and dad have been in something of a daze. We’re all tremendously depressed about what’s happened. The one image that sticks in my mind is seeing the player’s tearful face as he finally made it into the back of the ambulance, howling in pain while trying to wave goodbye to those of us who had stuck around for moral support.

After hearing of the damage that the other player has caused to our player, we’re all left wondering. It’s so bad – a broken ankle and a fractured shin – that could it have been a deliberate, malicious challenge? The player who did it swears it was accidental, and everyone who saw it thinks the same. But we still don’t know how he came to break the top of his shin, below the kneecap, and ended up with an ankle that was broken and twisted far out of place. And the thing is, his ankle didn’t even look that bad when I looked at yesterday.

It’s hard to stop thinking about these events. I thought about it all yesterday. I woke up many times last night and it was the first thing in my mind. It’s been up there again today, and it just keeps coming back as we get more news, and each time the news seems to be worse. At first we heard it wasn’t going to be too bad. Then he needed an operation. Now it’s unlikely he’ll ever play football again.

As in everything in life, we’re left wondering what if. What if the game had been called off? It’s raining today – why wasn’t this rain here yesterday? Why didn’t we have two weekends for Christmas, as normal? Why did we play the injured player at right back instead of centre back as normal? If he had been at centre back, it’s unlikely he would have been near the incident. Why didn’t we play the game at our opposition’s ground, as we were originally supposed to? Why did the paramedics not leave us feeling absolutely confident that they had everything under control? Why did they use a wheelchair, not a stretcher? Why had we rushed back on after half time? Why had the referee only played 30 instead of 35 minutes in the first half?

The list just goes on and on. The agony continues. The memories of all the previous good times we’ve had since the player joined us are all resurfacing. Only last week we all had a great day out at a Premier League football match.
They seem such innocent times.

They are gone. We can’t rewind the clock. We have to suffer what this cruel twist of fate has brought us. The worst of it, of course, is that all this has happened right on top of Christmas, and the player’s birthday next week. And in a family that are going to struggle to cope with what’s happened.

It put an incredible bad feel to the end of our footballing year. We were looking forward to sending them all away with their selection boxes and wishing them all a happy Christmas. Instead we were left with this absolute trainwreck.

And the sad thing is that this isn’t the first time this has happened to us (yet some managers report it’s never happened to them!). And in all previous instances, the player has never played football again. It gets worse each time you see this happen, but this one is totally devastating for all concerned. If I wasn’t an atheist, I would probably use a phrase like “There but for the grace of God go I”…

We hope to go and visit him tomorrow. It also might help us make some sense of what actually happened. Not knowing the exact details of the event is making it even more difficult to come to terms with it.

The team’s morale is shattered, I can’t stop thinking about it, and we’re all going to take a little while before we can get past these emotions.

I even admit that I have shed a few tears over this. Truly upsetting. It’s making me reassess just what’s left in the beautiful game for me…

Turning On A Sixpence

The past couple of days can be characterised by the above phrase. The thing that’s swinging wildly from one hour to the next is my mood. Allow me to chronicle the myriad reasons why.

Last Thursday: critically important message sent to a friend. This message contains my plans for the future, an idea for a venture between me and my friend. The friend is interested, but I need to hear back from him with his input before the next steps can be taken. Mood: anxious.

Friday: I make preparations for the venture, wondering what’s going to be next. But I decide not to buy anything just in case I can save some money by waiting for the VAT cut to come into effect on Monday. Mood: excited, but nervous

Saturday: Still no reply from friend. Starting to annoyed about it… the message contained time sensitive requests that need to be fulfilled Monday at the latest. Still, he has probably been in work all week, and normally goes out on a Saturday night, so another day of wait won’t be a problem. Mood: tense.

Sunday: day of distraction for me. Football joy to be had. But the bad part: it was going to be against the second best side in the league. Imminent thrashing ahead. Mood: despondent. Arrive at the football, not enough players to play a full side, but too many to cancel the game. Weather turning glorious after promised sub-zero temperatures failed to materialise, last chance of game being called off lost. Mood: suicidal. 

Game happens, 10 minutes into which our former goalkeeper turns up, the incredibly talented one who quit the team two weeks before for ridiculous reasons too farcical to go into here. He says he wants to play for us again. Only lose 2-0 despite having chances to win it ourselves.  Mood: ecstatic, yet frustrated. Then at end of game goalkeeper tells us he isn’t certain yet if his circumstances will allow him to rejoin us permanently. Mood: pissed off.

Still no reply from friend. Mood: very very pissed off. 

Monday: Still no reply. Date of “launch” has arrived. Take a gamble and go ahead anyway with the things I needed to do. VAT cut gamble paid off. Mood: less pissed off than before. 

Decide to text friend to give him a little nudge. Reply back instantly saying he doesn’t check Facebook unless it e-mails him. Turns out it hadn’t, so he hadn’t seen my message. Mood: better – I believe him, because Facebook’s notification system is flakey these days. 

Learn later on in the day that my mum has been lying to us all for years… while she supposedly doesn’t smoke, it seems that in work she often has a sly one or two, all the while pretending she doesn’t. I had my suspicions, but the blatant lies this means she’s told us all for such a long time are very upsetting indeed. Mood: angry. 

Tuesday: friend finally replies to my message, and happily tells me he’s still very much interested. Mood: relieved. But still annoyed about the lies from yesterday and haven’t really spoken to Mum since. 

In fact, on the smoking thing, there hasn’t even been a confrontation. The revelation occured with my mum out the room, my sister telling us that she’d seen her smoking in school (where my mum works as a teaching assistant). My dad was in the room too at the time. It seems he knew about it, but he has seen how disappointed I was, so I’m sure he’s relayed on the news.

Last night I was just feeling terrible. It had been a long and exceptionally boring day, made worse by the waiting for my friend to reply and the happenings in my family. When I went to bed I was beginning to think that nothing is ever going to go right for me. All I wanted was a chance and every time I found one something tripped me up again. 

But this morning things aren’t so bad. I really hope I’m doing the right thing here.

Must Be Mad

One of the serious downsides about running a Sunday league football team is that you are at the full mercy of the British weather. Never has this been more evident than today, when an insufficient amount of rain fell overnight for the game to be called off, resulting in us having to play when it was obvious to all and sundry that it was soon going to descend into farce.

And what a farce. If I were a neutral observer, sitting in a warm ivory tower, I would probably laugh at the suffering people go through in order to watch their side suffer or succeed. But mostly suffer, in my case.

Today the conditions were utterly appalling. I had listened to the rain all night pounding away at the roof barely 50cm above me. The forecast was for it to rain heavily until midday – good enough, since our game would kick off at 10:30am, and the overnight rain would be a bonus. Ideally, we needed the game called off, because we’re going through something of a crisis at the moment. True, we are never out of crisis, but this one is worse than most.

The rain stopped at 7:30am. I looked out the loft window – clear skies coming ahead. I checked the BBC weather forecast. Sunny spells, 9am. Sunny, 12pm, sunny spells 3pm. Well, at least it wasn’t going to rain while we were there…

But the game still might have been called off, I thought. I checked the league’s website. No news. I checked my mobile – no news of cancellation either. OK, so we’re unlucky this time. We’re going to have to play. But like I said, at least it’s going to be sunny.

Wrong. Not for the first time the BBC Weather website forecast, which is soon to be reclassified from a factual website to a comedy website, was so damn wrong it’s untrue. I often laugh at how many times the forecast can change within the space of 24 hours. Sometimes I think it randomly generates symbols they change so often.  

We were treated to 90 minutes of hell. Gale force winds, freezing cold, blowing throughout. Rain. Heavy rain. Heavy hailstones. Sunshine! Heavy hailstones. Heavy rain. Driving, bitterly cold rain, freezing you to the bone. On, off, on, off. Worst of all, I badly needed the toilet. Not a number two, I assure you. 

The thing is about our team is that they don’t take kindly to poor conditions. In recent weeks we’ve actually been improving, having sorted out a good defence. Well, that was until our excellent keeper decided to let us down, resulting in the current crisis. But anyway, we thought we would be OK at the back, at least. And we were, until the weather ruined everything.

Whether it’s a lack of enthusiasm, or there’s something about our style of play that really suffers in the rain, it’s hard to be certain. But whatever it is, we just don’t know how to deal with it. We lose all control, while the wind does its worst to make the trajectory of an airborne ball utterly unpredictable. Meanwhile, the driving rain saps you of all energy and morale.

The conditions in the middle of the game were such that if they were happening at the start of the game then I’m certain it would have been called off. Indeed, I understand that many similar leagues called off their games today. But ours crazily went ahead. If only the rain hadn’t stopped at 7:30am. If only I hadn’t been deceived by the woeful forecast this morning for the rest of the morning. Can they really not forecast just a few hours ahead? I would have worn more layers and a more waterproof jacket for starters!

So today has really knocked the stuffing out of our team. After two great performances in the last two weeks, today was utter capitulation. It was only 2-0 down at half time, and the opposition had had no more chances than the ones they scored. It ended 7-1, in the second half when the worst of the weather was taking its toll. At one point I pleaded with our team to abandon the game. The opposition were happy to (of course they would) and the referee thought we should but our players didn’t want to, so we didn’t. 

Like I said, you’ve got to be mad to be in this business. 

Nobody ever said being a football fan was easy. But more than being a fan, running your own team is far worse because the depth of involvement is on a much deeper level. But we do it through the good times as well as the bad… even if it means nearly dying of hypothermia.

Nothing Ever Happens

… sang Del Amitri many years ago. It is a wonderful song, one of my favourites, but it also is very apt right now, since nothing really is happening at all. The US election is over, and while I am still following events there very closely, it seems anything remotely interesting in my life right now has been drained away.

The only event of note recently was on Sunday when my football team, the one my brother plays for, ground out a very dodgy draw. It was probably one of the most tense and nerve-wracking games of football I’ve ever been to watch, as we took a one goal lead at half-time and managed to weather a huge storm in the second half – both metaphorically and literally as the heavens opened and gale force winds blew against us – to only concede once after the opposition had a huge array of opportunities to win and win handsomely.

Literally, that has been the only thing lately worth writing about. I spend most of my time mulling around here, looking at job sections, occasionally applying but knowing there’s really no point right now. I’m waiting for a Eureka moment, one in which I will finally decide what to do with my useless existence.

It’s not like I’m not trying to think up a way out of this hole. I have called in as many friends as I can, but I’m beginning to discover who my real friends are in this situation. It’s amazing how I can live with or know people for so long and think they’re a good friend, but when times get hard it can be incredibly difficult even to get a reply out of people.

And in other circumstances, the opportunity for action has passed. I thought I might genuinely have a chance to get a business started up with a friend… so I e-mailed him to see if he would be interested. He said yes, but he had to delay the decision until he had pending job interview. The interview arrives, he e-mails me and tells me it was a disaster. So we start to plan.

Next day, he’s got the job, and all bets are off. Talk about bad timing. If only I’d considered this a few weeks earlier he might not have applied, and things could be very different.

The daft thing is that right now, with my terrible job prospects, I am seriously considering if I could go to the USA next year and do the camp counselling thing again. But that really would be a desperate situation, because it would pretty much mean that I could start a full time job in the meantime, because I would have to quit come next summer.

So I’m delaying that one for a little while, though the window of opportunity is only open until mid-December. That’s not good, not with the way the days seem to just fly by and I take so long to make up my mind anyway.

My head is wracked with worry right now. I just haven’t got a clue what to do. There are lots of options, but each one I take probably closes almost all the other doors. For instance, if I went to the USA, it effectively means that I won’t have a proper job until next September. That’s too long.

And it’s getting so bad that the first seeds of doubt about dropping out of teacher training are starting to appear. That’s not good at all.

Hmm. Considering nothing has happened, I still managed to write an awful lot about it…