Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not just football....

There is more to football than just kicking the ball for us (me & my brother). Anybody recalling their childhood days would agree that it was more fun doing things which were suffixed with ‘dire consequences’, by the dark forces; our parents. Though our ‘don’t do’ list was much longer than the ‘do’ list, some things were as close as being outlawed. Football though never featured in the ‘don’t do’ list (actually my father encouraged me when I started practicing for our school team), the combination of football and rains were a much ostracized event. I think anybody who has footed a ball will concur that nothing beats the fun of playing football in the rain. And we never got enough beating for doing that.

What makes football in the rain different from playing at any other time is 1) the cloud and rain would make it so cool around that one never felt exhausted and 2) (a highly debated point though) with the water and dampness in the field, the skills and tricks of the best of the players came to a naught, as if creating a level playing field. Though we never had the likes of Ronaldos and Kakas amongst us but the above two reasons at least brought the Tendulkars and Kasparovs to the football field. So far so good, but what used to cause trouble at home was bucket full of soiled & dirty clothes and cuts & bruises in plenty. The latter was not much of a concern as ours was a medical fraternity, but the former added to more wet clothes all around the house on overcast days. May be that’s what added ‘football in the rain’ to the ‘don’t do’ list. But for us what added extra fun was to go play and come back without letting the parents know (which you will read further, was not always the case). Mom was sometimes OK with it but we had hard time keeping out of dad’s sight.

On a typical day we would first start looking out on the field if somebody had started playing, as the field was clearly visible from our balcony. Then we would start listening to our parent’s conversations to see if dad was about to go out for some chore. We were sure on Tuesdays he would go to the local grocery market in the evening and that meant an hour’s play for us. It was not hard to convince mom but sometimes we just slipped out of the house once dad had left. If we got caught in the act then we would say to mom that we would be back in a minute. It feels so funny to me now that whenever I tried to slip out of the house my excuse would always be - "I’ll back in a minute," irrespective of what I was going out for or that it would never be done in a minute.

I don't clearly remember why we siblings never used to be in the same team. May be because we used to team up based on our age and the younger ones were teamed together and the elders in the other. Again this disparity in age was never a concern as we were just a bunch of kids trying to hit a ball through a pair of stones kept at opposite ends. Another thing that I clearly remember is that we always played bare footed and anybody who came to the field in sneakers had to do without it on the field. This though led to lots of cuts for sure but it was a necessary evil. Another must on the field was arguments and quarrels, on everything from goals to fouls to off sides. Sometimes these small disagreements were fought with more fervour than the game itself. My bother and I used to be the more vocal parties to the dispute as we took our disagreement seriously and often took it home after the game. I think it had nothing to do with football per se but we ended up doing this in all other sports, cricket especially because my brother was passionate about it (that’s another story). Otherwise the disputes used to be settled based on whether one was winning or loosing or had a winning or loosing chance based on that one decision. Not to say the kid who owned the ball had a greater say on the proceedings (but we did overcome this veto power later by pooling money to buy the ball). Though the quarrels did add another dimension to the game, with the rare elbows and kicks becoming more frequent. But there was one thing we all agreed and knew would change the fate of the game; if the sky would open up suddenly. Once it started to rain it was anybody’s game. Even a badly loosing team felt they have a chance and the, till now convincingly, winning team felt a knot in their throat. The sudden rush was so intense, as if it were the dying moments of the game even though the game might have just started. Once the field started to show up pools of water, it was anybody’s guess that staying on ones feet would win us the game rather than trying a lot of tricks. It was so much fun and difficult, at the same time, to get the ball from one goal to another, that we would end up laughing our heart out and celebrate our goals for minutes to come. I had another thing to worry about; to keep my specs dry in the rain. When it used to rain heavily the specs were of no use and so was I. My worst nightmares used to come true when my specs would come under somebody’s feet.

Though there was one other thing that used to worry us both while playing and that was to get back home before dad did. So we used to constantly keep one eye on the road and the other on the proceedings on the field. But as luck would have it we were often spotted by dad in the act of playing or just when we were done with the game. But it did used to make a lot of difference if we were spotted close to the house or on the field. Because if we were on the field then dad would come to the field and thrash us all the way home. It was so embarrassing in the front of so many kids who were getting extra dose of fun for the day by watching us getting thrashed.


Looks like and for certain that it was only our dad who would not bother about where he was seen setting his children right. But in hindsight I think this made the other kids not to mess up with us because they feared getting the same treatment from dad. As we grew older we were able to outrun dad on the field and made sure the beating always happened inside the house. But even if he managed to catch us he could not hold on to both of us. Whoever escaped would make a dash for the bathroom and start cleaning up. One would take so much time in doing so to let dad vent his anger on the other sibling and give him time to cool off. So eventually it used to be a race to reach the bathroom first. It was obvious that if you lost this race you won yourself a good amount of thrashing. It was funny once, when at the end of one such race, we came home, to find mom using the bathroom. We had never thought of such bad luck before. But were relieved that now we were both in the open and will have to share what was coming. We rushed to the terrace and started cleaning up taking water from the water tank. Dad became more furious this time as we were spoiling the whole water in the tank. He started to chase us and we took him for a ride in circles around the tank. It was like a musical chair with us crying to be spared and dad swearing at us. It brings to my mind the worst forms of getting cornered, getting stuck, a steep fall, a certain end. I can’t recollect how that ended but as far as I know my dad it might have been anything but happy. Funny indeed that often, after all that has happened, some moron kid would come to our house to return the football in full view of dad. Common sense was in short supply with those kids. They used to get the choicest profanities from dad and for us the misadventure doesn’t seem to end. Dad used to be in a foul mood for the rest of the evening and we used to stay away from his sight. It used to be so quiet in the house on such evening that we wished some relatives or friends would come home to break the curse. Even though we wanted the day to end quickly we knew that the night won’t be much fun either. We siblings used to settle scores in the night as one of us would have won the game or we would have quarreled on the field or one would have got more thrashing because the other reached the bathroom first. We used to make sure that we did not go to bed, or sometimes after, until we were even. I still love the game but deeply miss the days when we had more to look out for than just the opponents in the game. Playing football for us was not just hitting the ball.

5 comments:

sonu said...

i myself am a big football fanatic...ur blog reminded me of my childhood days whn we used to spend so much of our leisure time in playing footer,i still cherish those small fights during d matches,those fouls,happiness and sorrow whn we used to win or lose d game ...nice one.

lakshmi said...

I never played football. But the blog reminded me of my childhood memories where I used to tease my siblings and the fun we had when it came to facing one on one with parents :)

Who said...

sonu: ditto for cricket as well..

lakshmi: actually, what i wrote was like pointing a torch towards the sun. If you end up being a mallu, by sense or by chance, there is bound to be lot of events which are both nerve wracking and hilarious at the same time that you don't know whether you should thank your God or curse your stars.

deeps said...

me not a big fan, nor do i play foot ball much, but let me say a third thing i have xperinced, falling is more comfy in rain :-p
and kiks are less painful...

eii whats that you are anticipating? ur results? umm

acha! belated happy Onam

Who said...

Deeps: thnx for dropping by. Happy Onam to you too, belated though!