I am in pain. Severe pain. The sort of pain women complain about during childbirth. Only I do not have access to an epidural. Or a doctor. no. It's just me and good ole Paracetamol. See this is what happens when vanity and ego overtake common sense. Some weeks ago we had the pleasure of having Laspapi round for dinner during which he casually mentioned that he played five - a- side football every Friday. He looked fit and well and I took this as a good sign that the Friday kickabout was doing him good.
Since then we have exchanged emails and I have made enquiries about the game stating categorically that:
- I have not played in at least five years
- My current fitness leaves something to be desired
- Constant travelling does not help
- My advancing years could be an issue etc etc.
I feel that I gave him enough clues for him to be able to say. Toksie you are absolutely right. You continue to stay at home of a Saturday evening eating spring rolls and sipping on fruit cocktails. Sure, make the occasional trip to LaCasa to "work out" and all will be well. But no. The mails came thick and fast. Oh everything will be alright. We are all old men. None of us is fully fit. You will fit right in. We will play at the right pace.
And so it was that I donned my trainers (white of course) and headed off to the Astro turf pitch last night. The first clue that all was not well was that there was no sign of my "mentor". Maybe he is running late I thought to myself as I watched a bunch of fit Arabs\ Lebanese blast the ball about the pitch. Thank God I am not playing with these guys. He'll be here any minute now with the rest of the geriatrics, I try to convince myself, and we can get on with it. It wil be more about skill than speed.
Seconds turn into minutes and thirty of those later I found myself being fitted into an orange jersey and lining up with nine other players - none of whom was a day past 30. Some of them looked fit and muscular enough to play in the Premiership. Unfortunately there was no hiding place. This was five a side. There were nine of them and well you don't have to be a scientist.
For those of you not familiar with this brutal sport here is how it works. Unlike regular football, there are only five players per side, normally there are plenty of subs to allow players to rest, it is played on a smaller pitch than the standard which is normally Astro Turf. Oh and the game tends to move very quickly indeed. Especially if you are forty something and your knees are shot and your groin muscles are em tight. (Bill Cosby to David Letterman. I pulled a groin muscle last night. Dave to Bill. Was it yours? Classic). Anyways.
I look over and notice there are no subs, and no Laspapi, on the bench. I am run ragged. My breath, when it comes, is coming from somewhere near my ankles. I can tell because I am bent over double on my knees and can feel and hear the blood pumping through my veins. From my toes. We are three minutes into the game. I have already dispatched a bottle of water and now realise the foolishness of quaffing that bowl of jollof rice and efo stew earlier in the afternoon to "beef" up my energies.
I rain curses on my tor"mentor"'s head as the ball continues to whizz past me like the okada men on the Lekki Expressway. I eye the referee so ferociously urging him to blow his whistle for half time he must think I am trying to pick him up. Eventually there is only one thing for it. My turn to be the keeper. I wheeze as I stumble towards the post, my vision blurred from sweat and light headedness.
The keeper is none too pleased as he later confides that he is suffering from the excesses of the previous night. Too many drinks, too many women, dusk turns into dawn etc. Damn those were the days I think to myself... as the ball whizzes past me into the net. Note to self. Concentrate. And er stand up. I use the post to leverage myself into a standing position and then miraculously feel my second, or is it fourth wind, appearing. I decide to go for it and call back the fairly grateful keeper and I make my way on to the wings where I give a display of left sided play those young whipper snappers will propably not see again for some time ( I reckon it will take at least two weeks for me to feel my knees and toes again).
Much to my relief the referee finally blows. I muster all my strength to run to the drinks cabinet, give high fives to one and all and make for my departure until I am told it is only halftime. We still have another half to go. Has it just been fifteen minutes?
From the look on their faces I am pretty sure those guys had never seen a grown man cry like that before. Wait till I get my hands on that Laspapi who never did show up. He won't even be able to whisper to the girls when I finish with him.
Oh and by the way we lost. By one point. And I saved four goals. Let in three. Scored none. Came close though. Twice. So there.
I'm off to rest.