Just over two years ago, I had a little accident and seriously injured my right leg. Even now, I’m still approximately another year away from complete recovery and until the time when recovery is complete, I’m left with two problems. I can’t yet properly run and I kick like a spas.
When I say I kick like a spas, I don’t mean that I go around trying to kick people but end up with my foot in the back of my head. I mean that I can’t kick a football.
I’ve never been especially good at football (I was always picked last) or for that matter, anything in the slightest which is sport-related, but at least before my injury, I was able to kick a football with some power and some accuracy.
Why am I telling you this?
Because thus far, since injuring my leg, I’ve managed to avoid any situation whereby I’m required to kick a football.
This is a feat in itself as during the summer months, the park where I walk my dogs always has people of varying ages playing football and it’s inevitable that a stray ball will veer off in my general direction.
There’s certain techniques to avoiding the requirement to kick a football back to someone, which primarily involve complete ignorance, pretending to be a deaf mute or by pretending to be Verbal Kint, although the last two require a certain amount of forward-planning.
I go so far out of my way to avoid kicking a football back to someone because I know full-well that with my current level of piss-poor coordination combined with the pain I get in my right foot, I’d only embarrass myself.
This evening, the dogs had been walked and I was just nearing the exit of the park when a football rolled from my side and stopped neatly in front of me. There was no warning whatsoever and even with hours of practice, you’d never be able to roll a football and get it to stop in front of a moving object so precisely.
The way in which the ball had glided to a stop dead in front of my feet was total perfection. If that moment could somehow have been magically captured and framed in the Louvre, I guarantee that thousands of arty-farty types would spend hours just standing in front of it, taking in the sheer brilliance, beauty and genius of it’s magnificence.
I froze; like a fox in the headlights of a car, just before going under the wheels, not quite being killed outright but left twitching and bleeding in the road, wondering what the fuck had just happened.
I would have given my right leg to have been the mangled, bloody fox right then. Literally, I would have yanked my injured leg off there and then, if I could have done, just to avoid the terrible shame and embarrassment that was becoming more and more inevitable.
I couldn’t run left; there was a fence there.
I couldn’t run right; there was a bench there.
I couldn’t turn back; there was someone else with a dog and Eddie doesn’t always like to play nice with other dogs. Not in an aggressive, vicious way but in the mounting-the-wrong-way-and-trying-to-fuck way. It’s cute, really.
So here I was, facing my biggest fear, knowing that I would eventually need to kick the football back over to the group of kids it had come from and who were now all staring at me, dumbfounded. One of them shouted out:
Oi, mate- pass the ball back
They’d noticed- bugger.
Bizarrely, a tiny part of my brain was telling me that if I stood still for long enough, the kids wouldn’t see me and I wouldn’t need to kick the football back. Fortunately, my rationale took over and I started to mull over my options.
I could either kick with my left foot, which had never been as strong and as accurate as my right foot pre-injury but was in all likelihood as strong and as accurate (if not more so) than my right foot post-injury. Or, I could try and kick the football with my right foot, which in theory could be nearly as good as it had once been, although I wouldn’t know until it was too late. Time was running out and one of the other kids shouted:
You gonna pass the ball back or what, mate?
I was debating whether or not to refuse on either the grounds that neither child had said “please” or that I was no one’s mate, but at least attempting to kick the football back was probably the lesser of two evils.
I stepped forward with my left foot and booted the football as hard as I could with my right foot. I managed to kick with just the right amount of power to propel the football to the kids, which was a shame because it was now headed in completely the wrong direction and was more than likely about to end up further away from the group of oiks than it had when it had initially stopped at my feet.
The kids, in unison, looked at me, looked at the ball, then back at me again. One of them even made the mong noise- you know, the one where you push your tongue down into your lower lip and go “duuuuuuhhhhhhhh”.
I still don’t know what was worse: the fact that my right foot was now in agony, the embarrassment of such a spectacular failure or the fact that technically, I had just been bullied by a group of 12-year olds whose football I had just kicked into the next town.
There was only one thing for it.
As one of the bullies reluctantly ran after the rogue football, leaving his mates to gawp at me in amazement, I let Eddie off the lead. As predicted, he ran off and started to fuck another dog backwards, causing just enough of a distraction as it’s owner shouted at him to stop so that I could quickly make my escape via the exit of the park, right foot turned in and being dragged behind me.