Friday, April 13, 2007

The day a teacher really did teach me a lesson I wouldn't forget

I am not quite sure why I have been thinking about my old school days recently, perhaps it's because so much seemed to happen in winter. For many people, certain smells bring back memories of childhood - for me it is light.

As Sydney heads towards winter, I am experiencing similar light and in similar environments, to the days when the world lay at my feet like a football in front of an open goal.

At the end of an afternoon, or on a Saturday morning, parks and recreation grounds can make my mind do a sudden U turn and travel back down the path where so much began so long ago. Take this afternoon for example.

The park I use on part of my daily walks has been set up for ankle-biter football (soccer). As I stood on the edge of the penalty box, (as shown in the photo) I thought of a Saturday morning forty-two years ago.

I never scored a goal while in school but one day I did come very close. Although I may not have scored that day, I learned a few lessons that were to stand me in good stead in the years to come.

Although football was a regular part of the timetable, I was only picked once for the school football team - and even then I was only selected because I was one of a handful of boys who hadn't come down with the flu! It was 1965 and I was nine years old.

Personally I think I was always discriminated against on the basis that I couldn't control the ball, couldn't run, couldn't tackle and couldn't pass the ball accurately. But apart from that I reckon I had a lot of potential that went unnoticed.

On a cold and crispy Saturday morning, I put on the school "togs" for the first and last time. We were playing a rival school who were always near the top of the table. None of us thought we had a chance of winning, the only question was how many we would lose by. I am sure our sports master wore a sign around his neck that proclaimed, "I don't know these boys. I'm from the next valley". However, strange things happen and half way through the second half we were only one goal down.

I was playing "Inside left," just to the left of the centre-forward, which may explain why I have always been a bit left of centre. I was chosen for that position because I was one of the tallest in the team - even though I would now be considered a short-arsed little git.

A boy named Paul Collins passed the ball to me and I suddenly realised that if I managed to get past one of the other team's defenders, the goal lay right ahead.

Well I'll be buggered. I passed him easily and I stood on the edge of the penalty box with only the goal keeper to beat. That wasn't a problem because in 1965, goalies were always the boys the rest of the team wanted kept out of the way. All I had to do was shoot.

I hesitated - not believing the opportunity that had been handed to me on a plate. If I scored, we would be level and I would be a hero - at least for a few days. It was then that the little bastard I had just passed, recovered and hacked my legs from under me.

Oh well, at least we would get a penalty out of it and the lad would be sent off, then given a clip round the ear by his mum. How naive of me. The referee waved played on.

He was the sports master of the school we were playing against.

Oh yes, I learned some valuable lessons that day.

Footnote: A few months ago I came across recent photos of my old school - it is the only school I ever attended that still exists. Included in the collection were photos of the current school football team. I was quite amused to see my old school team with the name of their sponsors emblazoned on the back of their football shirts!