Two Stories Involving the Junk of Others

Joel Golby

So I gave up playing football, recently. Legs, intimate grazes. The captain of my football team [1] hurt his ankle up pretty badly and then other people started to drop out, so as towards the end we were struggling to make a team, drafting in ringers and fat kids to make up the numbers. I miss it, which surprises me.

[1] A Thing About Just Beyond Amateur Seven-a-Side Teams: they have to have a ‘hilarious’ team name. That is the thing. Ours was hilarious, obviously – we were FC OutRAGEous, rage capitalised, which was only approaching funny ever when, in south London, where we played, ambling Ghanaian referees would approach us for a pre-match handshake and ask, with sing-song sincerity, “Are you OUTRAGEOUS?”

If you are reading this and you are i. American ii. a girl, you are thinking: “how is this relevant? How is this relevant to me?”, and unfortunately the answer is ‘it is not’. If you are looking for relevance, you are in the wrong place. See, I was never any good at football: not a gazelle down the wing or a tough tackling box-to-box midfielder, no, rather a clumsy right back, plodding and actually a detriment to my team. But I never realised what a big part football has played in my life up until now: my morning never truly starts until I have checked the BBC football gossip, mooted and never-to-materialise transfers that I legitimately get excited about; my lunchtime is spent reading opinion, conjecture. I record Match of the Day and loathe the presenters, and my body is variously pockmarked from footballing impacts: my left shin still bears the low dent of a personal bruise, where some idiot kid with a broken front tooth (you never seen a smart kid with a broken front tooth. You gotta have the stupid’s to break that one) barrelled into me; my right knee is a scar of surgical glue, where I dived onto concrete like so many graceful swans, failing entirely to stop a goal. Chuffing around after a football turned me from flabby lesbian-a-like to doughy Adonis at university, while I first met my pal Adam – one of those knuckleheads from old times you only make friends with through rare luck – when he beat me at a game of cuppies so hard I cried and flounced home.

Arguably, though, the most important impact the sport of football has had on my life up until now and probably forever is that it introduced me to that most Anglo-Saxon of terms for the lady parts, namely ‘the cunt-word’.

How Football Introduced me to that Most Anglo-Saxon of Terms for the Lady Parts Namely ‘the Cunt-word’, by Joel Golby

The park that was the backdrop to my childhood was not really a park, it was a field, a field behind my house. The glass was long and thick; it was divided by a large hill, which ran down it a crumbling concrete path to a bare bones playground of jungle gym or what have you. Colloquially, the park was known as ‘The Park’.

The Park was where, during summer, I would play football for like 12 hours straight a day, until my Mam had to waddle out to the gate, cigarette in hand, and shout “Joe! Joe! JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE!’ [2] until begrudgingly I came in for my tea, invariably fish fingers and beans and waffles, covered in grass stains and with a football under my arm (I was covered in grass stains, not the waffles.).

[2] My Mum calls me Joe. I have pointed this out, I have said. “My name is Joel, Mum,” I say. “You know this. You made the damn name up,” and she just sits there, coolly smoking, while I make tentative little phone calls to residential homes around the area.

The Park was where we dug holes in deep clay and where bigger boys tasted their first cigarettes and got their first heavy petting done and where Lisa Nadine, a girl new to the area, a tomboyish blonde, once told me with complete sincerity that I was to call her ‘Nadine Lisa’ now. “Why,” I asked, because why. “It’ll make me more interesting,” said Nadine. A Facebook cross-reference – the closest I have to a full CSI-style background check, tells me she is now the kind of girl who wears hockey-team hoodies with the nickname ‘NADDERS’ printed at cost on the back and is a legitimate fan of the artist P!NK. How is that being interesting working out for you, Nadine?

It was also home, of course, to the odd shambling drunk. This was not a huge problem; normally they would shuffle across the park, wearing a full woollen suit in sweltering summer, ambling down the hill with a warm can of lager, and beckon us to pass them the ball for a touch. There is this thing, about certain dudes, of which I count myself: when I see a football, plump and round and correctly pumped, I get a kind of twitch, in my foot. It runs gently down the arch and manifests fully under the meaty pad beneath the lead toe on my shooting foot (right.), and basically when I see a football I have a just fucking animal urge to roll it on top of my foot and do some kick-ups. I think a lot of men have this, even drunk men in damp woollen suits. “Here, boys,” they’d beckon, a carrier bag full of cans swinging from their wrists, tickling their fingers in the air. “Over here.” We would tepidly pass it to them, whereby they would shank it into some bushes. “Fuckin’ HELL,” the drunks would say, before shuffling to the shop for some tabs. “That ball’s proper light!”

Occasionally, on long lazy afternoons, adult humans would join us for a kickabout. (It was here that I heard the cunt-word.) There was a halfway house a five-minute walk from The Park nearby, where offenders fresh from prison would be temporarily housed to rehabilitation, which was also where, weirdly, we were introduced to the beautiful act of intercourse or ‘sex’ – a thing we had only heard up until then in whispered theory, but now we saw enacted in great detail, in the first-floor bay window of a halfway house by my friend Charlie’s, enacted pendulously, sweatily – and so sometimes anyway a clot of reformed characters would amble down to the park to just completely destroy us at two-on-two. This day, there were a few of us – my friend Naz, from down the road, whose Ma introduced me to samosas with ketchup, and his brother Sadi, who once fell in a bunch of nettles once and turned pink and had to wear salve for a week, and this shambolic flame-haired former jailbird who we once gazed at through a bay window just making it with this woman and these eerie twins, Mark and Marie, the latter of whom’s cunt was in question.

What happened was this: we had by playing a knockout game of football where the two teams (myself and Naz vs. the telepathic Mark and Marie; the shambling drunk and has friend had already scored enough goals to qualify for the final round and were sat on the hill, topless) were facing off against each other, when an errant ball – I forget who kicked it, but seeing as it went in the wrong direction it was probably myself – hit a circa eight-year-old Marie in that sort of vacant and sexless dimple in between her legs, which caused the flame haired drunk to say – and remember please at this juncture we have all seen him do a sex, pistoning away like a horse falling apart, which just made the whole thing even more inappropriate, somehow – caused this man to say: “Oof.”

“Oof,” he said. “right in the cunt.”

IN WHICH AND UNFORTUNATELY THAT IS NOT EVEN THE END OF MY DALLIANCES WITH FOOTBALLS AND THE JUNK OF OTHERS, LIKE SERIOUSLY

And so after the six monthly periods between haircuts and the legitimate watching of rugby on television as an excuse to drink beer that comes with university living, there is a lull, a period of limbo spent living with your Mam and attempting to get a job. This, for me, was the long hot and mostless employless summer of ’08.

Fortunately, all of my friends were similarly un-tooled up for the real world, and so, our schedules vacant, we took to playing football in the afternoons. At this point we were no longer flexible children with fringes and full replica football kits; instead we were a nerds in unwashed jeans and long hair and Pantera t-shirts [3]; our opponents were local schoolchildren.

[3] By saying ‘we’ I of course don’t mean me: the hell would I wear a Pantera t-shirt. I was wearing a replica kit for the Korean Republic that I got off of eBay, instead. COME AT ME, LADIES.

This park, nearby, was not as good as The Park, now the site of a school, but still was on a lilt. It had proper goalposts and was slap-bang in the middle of some residential houses, and so if you wanted a game of football you would walk out into the vempty field and make a few loud bounces – perhaps a kick-up or two, or a shot cracked off the crossbar – and quickly, curtains would flicker like pools of meerkat swivelling their head. Doors would shuttle, children would blur. Groups of them would tentatively approach. “Can we play?” they would ask, eyes squinting in the sun. “Yes,” we would deign, “yes. You are in goal.”

These were not, shall we say, organised matches. The normal rules of football dictate 11 men face off against 11, with most sticking roughly to position, formation. Contrast that with a 20-on-20 face-off, with 11-and-13-year-old schoolchildren gunning after the ball like a shoal of fish, and you get the idea somehow of the chaos we were stood in the middle of. Some children stood out, of course. Shaven headed children from huge families who, no matter how straight they stood, always look assymetrical and askew. One tiny kid with octopus legs who for the life of me I could not push over, I mean jeez. And then: Milosz.

Milosz was a rotund child of Polish descent who had a hammer of a left foot and warm brown eyes like a chesnut. He was a relatively new kid, at the school – even from afar we could tell their pecking order – but not in that shy, movie-about-high-school way new kids are. He was perfectly round and exuberant, and took huge run ups for goal kicks which we would all have to wait for with rapt breath. His Emmental cheese-like understanding of British culture meant that when some kids told him ‘Jeb end’ was the worst swear you could do he took them at their word, shouting it whenever he made especially good contact with the ball, which he did often, marauding down the wing with surprising grace and speed for such a clear fan of cake. He called me Kaka, and I loved him.

Um, uh. You know how we have said I was not ever so hot at playing football? We have agreed that, we have said. This meant occasionally I would spritz the ball off to the far left when I meant to play a Hollywood-style over-the-top pass; it also meant that when a boulder of a Polish kid bore down on the goal I was guarding shouting “JEB END” this one time, sliding in for a 50-50 ball, that my effort to clear it would shoot off in the wrong direction. We have mentioned this, how I have little-to-no technique. I shanked the football right into his wee bollocks.

A Certain Note That Would Have Explained a Fucking Lot in the Aftermath of My Shanking a Football into the Junk of a Polish Minor if I’d Have Known it Then: by a quirk of transeuropean fate, ‘ball’ – as in my ball, his ball, somebody assaulted my ball with a football – translates from Polish as ‘egg’. It sort of makes sense, you know, with the shape, but so that is why – immediately after I shot a football so hard into the crotch of a child that the impact made a pop like an airgun – the aforementioned Milosz, now a crumple upon the ground, snotty tears, was punching at the grass with one fist while holding on to his own personal testes for dear life with the other, shouting: “ARGH! MY EGG! MY EGG!”

I did not at the time understand why he was shouting about his egg.

“OH! MY EGG!”

However: it was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life.

“MY EGG!”

I was crying so hard with laughter I had to be walked away from the field.

—March 15th, 2012

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