‘I will never, ever understand the game of soccer. And thank God for that’

Illustration: Alan Clarke

Illustration: Alan Clarke

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 11:21

The objective of soccer, for the vast majority of Irish Times readers who’ve never watched the game, is to pass the ball about the place without using one’s hands, then at some point, if the opportunity arises, to kick it between one of two sets of posts that are situated at either end of the pitch – under the bar, by the way, instead of the more logical over?

Other than that, I might as well be watching interpretive dance for all I understand of the game – although one further thing I can state without fear of contradiction is that my son is having a total mare here today. He’s putting in the effort, there’s no doubt about that. But he honestly hasn’t touched the ball once and I know that because I haven’t taken my eyes off him all morning.

We’re in, like, Manchester for this long-awaited trial of his, which, by the way, is taking place, not in the Manchester United Soccer Stadium, but on a pitch in the middle of some random estate. And when I say an estate, I don’t mean the kind of estate I grew up on. I’m talking about literally a housing estate, where kids learn to count in eighths and the baby seat in a supormarket shopping trolley is for riding shotgun to the local off-licence.

“Mon, Ronan,” Kennet shouts. “Lerrim know you’re thayer. Lerrim know you’re thayer,” and then he turns around to Shadden – his daughter and Ronan’s girlfriend – and goes, “Has he touched the b, b, b, ball once? I doatunt think he’s t, t, t, touched it once.”

“He has,” I go, because I’m not going to stand there and listen to him knock my son. “He’s touched it loads of times and I know that because I haven’t taken my eyes off him all morning.”

Ronan suddenly has a chance from a corner kick, except he swings his foot at the ball and manages to miss it totally. He kicks the post in frustration.I’m wondering is it all the drinking and smoking he’s done in his 16 years.

“He’s f, f, f, fookenblowenhe’s big ch, ch, chadance,” Kennet goes. “That’s all’s Ine saying.”

I decide not to let him get to me.

I just shout, “You’re playing a really good game out there,” sounding weirdly like Sorcha when she used to stand around in Donnybrook watching me play rugby.

Shadden’s giving it, “Man on, Ro! Man on!” getting herself seriously worked up. She clearly expected today to go better than it’s going, given that she’s already storted dressing like a wag, with the fake tan, the genuine replica Herve Leger bandage dress and the lips frozen in a permanent pout like a turbot that hasn’t been well.

And that’s when I hear it. Dordeen, Shadden’s old dear, goes, “He’s lubbly, idn’t he?” and she nods in the direction of this Spanishy-looking kid, this Spanishy-looking kid who isn’t Ronan, this Spanishy-looking kid who’s scored two goals so far. “He keeps lookenober at you, Shadden.”

“Does he?” Shadden goes, clearly delighted with herself. She runs her gel nails through her hair extensions and flutters her fake lashes in the dude’s general postcode.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Girls are always looking to trade up.

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