Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A world of my very own making

At the risk of losing all friends and/or respect, this was pretty much written about me and my childhood. I often ask people what they do on Saturdays because mine are largely dictated to by going to see Oxford play; it’s been like that for years. I’m not sure what others’ do when they wake up on Saturday morning. Without a similar affliction, what occupies their spare time?

It wasn’t always like this, when I was small the whole weekend would be taken up by Subbuteo exactly as it’s described in the story. Generally I would play on my own, partly because I couldn’t abide others’ interpretations of the laws of the game (high powered flicking wasn’t allowed, nor was waggling your goalie from side to side – when did you last see a goalkeeper running from post to post at 500 miles an hour to save a shot?) mostly, I played on my own because I wanted to play more often than anyone else.

Friday nights was the, ahem, Friday League. This was years before SKY’s Monday night football or Super Sunday. The Friday League consisted of six teams including Walketon Rovers (pictured left, looking angry) and Wolvenal (pictured right, looking surprised), who I resurrected from my dad’s childhood (Wolvenal being a mix of dad’s favourite teams – Wolves and Arsenal).

The players who played for these clubs were drawn from that year’s Pannini Sticker Book, apart from Mark Flint, England and Rovers Captain (notable because he was badly painted) who was made up all by my own.

Saturday morning’s, apart from the arrival of that week’s Roy of the Rovers, was the big cup competition, the (oh, god help me) Saturday Cup. This was followed by the big European night on Monday when, usually, Walketon or Wolvenal, would take on the giants of the scene. For some reason these weren’t Juventus or Real Madrid, but teams like Widez Lodz, a Polish side who dominated my competitions.

There were some classic games, I still remember Rovers’ keeper being sent off in the first half of a European cup quarter final versus Antwerp (who had the most potent striker at the time – Van Der Somebody or other). The striker stepped up to take the resulting penalty, thundering it against the bar. What followed was a legendary Rovers rear guard, without the benefit of a keeper, which saw an unlikely victory and them proceed into the Semis. I always had a sense of fair play; I wouldn’t offer any bias and my favoured teams won as much as they lost.

I completed about 10 seasons and a couple of World Cups in total (champions of the World – Sweden followed by Brazil, England once knocked out in a dramatic semi-final by, erm, Wales). Then I got smart, introducing a UEFA Cup competition on a Tuesday and a couple of additional divisions of the Friday League, played on Thursday. Like SKY, I got greedy, and the quality of the football and the spectacle got diluted. It was the beginning of the end, I tried to speed through the minor competitions by playing games on the Commodore 64, or through some elaborate dice game, but it never worked. The legend collapsed around my ears and I moved on. I hope Rupert Murdoch and the FA are reading the sorry tale.


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