With the World Cup underway, it’s time to make a confession…
My name is Russell O’Connor and I’m addicted to football.
There, that’s the first time I’ve admitted it publicly.
It’s strange because, given my many miserable football related childhood experiences, I should hate the game completely.
Many of us have stood up against a primary school playground wall and been the last to be picked for the school teams. Few have had one captain say to his rival, “If we have Russ, can we have a 5-goal head-start?”
Sometimes captains would ask me to be commentator, ball-boy or random ice-cream seller – anything to keep me off the field of play.
On one hot sunny afternoon and with a shortage of school jumpers to use, I was asked to be a goal-post.
A striker kicked the ball past the keeper, it hit my knee and dropped into the goal. The striker couldn’t celebrate with me because he’d have to acknowledge that I was a player and not a goal-post and that the goal would have been disallowed as I’d have been offside.
The goalkeeper remonstrated with me and asked why I didn’t kick the ball away and I had to remind him that I wasn’t his defender but a mere goal-post and if he wanted me to defend, he should have bought a jumper into school to replace me from goal-post duties.
When I was picked, I’d spend most of my time running around into spaces waiting for passes that rarely came.
Sadly, if the ball arrived, so did everyone else and I’d get trampled in the stampede as primary school kids have no concept of tactics, formations and passing. They just play “kick the ball and all run after it.”
Sometimes the only kicks I’d get all game were hard and to the shins.
It’s not all bad. Today I got a special invite to the World Cup because, according to FIFA, I am the only fully qualified emergency goal-post in the world.