They say it’s the world’s most popular sport. That may be true around our spinning (wobbling?) globe but I do know that it was certainly the most popular sport at recess at South School if you don’t count chasing girls.
We always called it ‘soccer’ even though many people still insist on calling it ‘football’ even though real ‘football’ actually involves tackling and touchdowns and a lot less falling on the ground for no apparent reason and writhing around with a near-fatal phantom injury.
As you may have deduced, the soccer World Cup is on now and since it’s only held every four years and only the top 32 national teams can play it’s a pretty big deal. And it’s an even bigger deal for we Canucks on account of the only other time a Canuk team qualified for the World Cup was way back in 1986 when the #1 song was “That’s What Friends Are For” and the best-selling car was the Chevrolet Celebrity (whatever that is!).
The valiant Canuck footies are out of the finals now after three losses but they have scored one goal which is also a pretty big deal in a game where players run around a field the size of Saskatchewan for 90 minutes occasionally catching up to a soccer ball and giving it a kick or bonking it with their heads.
Our soccer games at recess were a little different. We always played at the back of the playground with the chain link fence as our boundaries and the goal posts made up of a pile of our coats. And each team had about 500 random players (or so it seemed) and if we didn’t score five or six goals a side in our twenty minutes of school-based freedom, well, it was a disappointing day for South School soccer.
I myself favored playing goal. This made absolutely no sense in the same way that it made no sense that I played first base in baseball, center ice in hockey, and defensive end in real football, and I was the always shortest shrimp on every team. What I lacked in stature (and talent) I made up for in enthusiasm and passion for the game, I guess, but there was one time where that zest and zeal turned out to be about as much a disaster as World Cup host Qatar’s human rights record or the insanity of the current Alberta parachute premier.
One of the dumber rules at South School was that no student was allowed to leave the confines of the school ground – under any circumstances, period. It was nice to have a safe environment and everything but what the heck do you do when the soccer ball flies over the fence? And you can guess how many times that happened.
Theoretically, a supervising adult was supposed to retrieve errant objects and students that happened to go flying over the fence, but this one time there was about three minutes left in recess and the wildly intense soccer game was tied and Ricky tried to score on me and sent it high and wide over the fence. Without thinking, I scampered up and over that fence, grabbed the ball, threw it back and was immediately arrested.
Later that morning I was unceremoniously summoned via school-wide announcement ringing loud and clear in every classroom and hallway to “Come to the Principal’s office” which every kid in school knew was never a good thing.
I got all kinds of detention, extra homework and general wide-spread humiliation just for grabbing that stupid soccer ball. And, you know, I’ve never liked soccer that much ever since. So I stick with real football. The three-down kind. Go Elks!
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to email@example.com