Handling Loose Balls


Me and my big mouth! Over a couple of drinks with a colleague of Gilles last night I mentioned my difficulty with the offside rule. Now- all of his life this guy had been waiting for an unsuspecting little butterfly to fall into the back of his goal net. He was on me like a spider sensing the death struggle of a gnat. Within seconds I was wound into a cocoon and injected with a paralysing sporty drug. Salt and pepper pots, a beer glass, several coasters and a wine cooler shunted up and down the table. I agreed with everything that was said but was suddenly confronted with a test to see if I had been listening. I had not been! I had got behind the pepper before the gin bottle was played.


So it was that instead of my Sunday morning romantic novelist’s lie in with warm baguette, I found myself with a bunch of parent types at the edge of a windswept recreation ground. Gilles had agreed to bring me to watch his chum’s boy play football and to finally split the infinitive and the atom of the offside rule. The ref looked like he had the right clothes but the guys who ran up and down the edges looked like passers-by who had been handed flags. It was these conscripts who were to judge the offside rule. Seemingly anyone you meet in the street who can hold a flag will know it.

The game kicked off and various stampedes of lads hurtled up and down. All of a sudden, a parent type shouted “Ref! That’s gotta be offside – Lino, Lino- you must be blind!”
“Lino – that kitchen floor stuff?” I ask Gilles.
“Lino – it means the linesman,” (That’s the conscript guy with a flag).
The referee blows his whistle for play to continue. A parent of the opposing side calls out “well played lino! – that was never off!”
It then became apparent that the lino guys were from each team and their decisions were allegedly based on a biased interpretation of the rules. By the end of the game it was more or less agreed that all of the officials had obviously lost their sight with solitary handling of their balls. Why does anyone want to be a football official?

Torn shreds of clouds scampered across a pale sky as church bells peeled for morning service. The sound of a ball punted at the far end of the field reached my ears long after the action. This is a world of rules facts and beauties. We are nothing but poor interpreters and conscript linos.

Emma thinx: A granted freedom is merely a longer chain.

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