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Kids playing football

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 Do you remember old tales about football in the Fifties
How your skill might spare you from going down the mines?
How Jackie and Bobby would be out near the colliery
Surrounded by Milburns and the rest of their tribe?
How kids would spontaneously play in the backstreets
With jumpers for goalposts, from morning till night?
The world has changed since the days of street football
(And changed for the better I don’t wish to deny)
When I talked to an expert on Premier League football
The clubs and academies were mentioned with pride
The elaborate arrangements to foster our talent
To turn out an English World Cup winning side
***
And what he said was …
EACH ACADEMY HAS ITS OWN PHILOSOPHY
EVERY ACADEMY HAS ITS OWN INTENSITY
ALL THE UNDER-NINES PLAY EIGHT-A-SIDE MATCHES
AND THEY ARE GIVEN HOMEWORK
PRACTICAL TRAINING DRILLS AS HOMEWORK
AND THE PARENTS
THEY TOO ARE GIVEN TRAINING
TRAINING ON NUTRITION, MOTIVATION, MENTAL PREPARATION
SO THAT THESE ACADEMIES,
OUR ACADEMIES
ARE ENVIED BY THE WORLD.
***
Then I remembered a black and white photo.
Taken near Goodison back in the day.
It’s a bleak afternoon, but I clearly distinguish
The tapering floodlights fading to grey
And a boy with a ball, dribbling toward us
In the knife-cold air of the impoverished street,
With its faded curtains, and identical doorways.
Dreaming of glory in the soft-falling sleet,
He weaves between the Ford Cortinas,
Past the rusty Hillmans, with the ball at his feet
And he runs on now
Unscouted
Uninhibited
Unstructured
***
And Free

11

Notes

This poem was inspired by a photograph on the web of a boy playing football in a street near the Everton ground ( if you google “old images of Goodison Park” or “the brutal boys’ pen at Goodison” you’ll probably find it). Jackie and Bobby are of course the Charlton brothers, who grew up in a North-East mining village, and are related to Jackie Milburn. The theme which emerges, I think, is “Playing for Fun.”

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/kids-playing-football/