Monday, July 24, 2006

Second helping of Soccer for the Soul

One of my good friends landed up at my flat this Sunday evening. We (my wife, a friend and I) had just finished watching Black Hawk Down. Our heads were still ringing with all the gun shots in the movie (btw, BHD is a must watch for those who haven't seen it. It's sad, touching, gruesome, gory, graphic - war up close - based on actual events that took place over a day in Somalia in 1993. Might as well have been 2006, things havent changed much in this world). Anyways this is a happy post. As I was saying my good friend turned up - and he looked as if he had jumped out of the Black Hawk Down set into our living room - like a Delta Ranger returning from a sortie into the Bakara market in Mogadishu. He was sporting a bad limp, an exhausted look, big blue bruises on both elbows, four cuts to his left knee that were wrapped up snugly in a big white gauze roller bandage with a bright iodine stain , the look of annoyance that tetanus injections cause and he actually had the air of someone who has just got back from a long weary battle - vanquished but with all the pride intact from the knowledge that he gave his enemies all that he could and more. Explanations followed - It seems that the company he works for had organised a mini seven-a-side soccer tournament over the weekend. His team lost in the first round and he took quite a few tumbles on the field. He said that looking us in the eye and without shame. He went on - continuing to look us in the eye and without shame - he blamed the rain, the slush, the lack of practice and the lack of proper football gear (soccer shoes esp) for the tumbles. We had a good laugh at his expense. [Among the Mind, Body and Soul, I think its probably the Soul that ages the most slowly. It still feels that the Body can engage in activities that it was once very involved in and very good at 15 years ago. I guess it gets the feeling thats it's all about getting the Mind over matter. The Body inevitably takes a battering before the humbled Soul decides that it's better off letting matter drive the Mind with regards to physical issues like these.] At the end of the soliloquy, my friend said modestly that he's giving up football and is going to channel his energies to cerebral sports (If such a thing exists! Is chess a sport or a game? I didn't voice my thoughts nor raise the issue for debate. He most certainly wasn't in a mood to exercise his grey cells - because the smart cells that they were, they probably had a look at the state of all the other cells that had had more than enough exercise and decided that they were better off unused). Moving on, once the laughter was out of the way, we sat down and watched Tour De France - wishing we too had a teeny weeny bit of the incredible endurance and stamina that the chaps on screen had. 3800 kms over 23 days, sometimes cycling at over 65 kmph. Phew - Unbelievable.

My friend sent me this article today ....


If you've ever thought about getting into shape, you need to take lessons from me. I'm an active guy. Not only do I jog regularly (to the pizza shop), I also walk every single day (to my mailbox). And as if that isn't enough exercise, I'm even playing in a soccer league this summer. It's an over-30 league, which means that all the players, without exception, must be at least 30 pounds overweight.

I don't want to brag, but after three games, my statistics are nothing short of remarkable: three goals, one assist and four injuries. The injuries include a pulled hamstring, a strained quadriceps and a sprained ankle. I won't even mention the injuries I've inflicted on others. I don't want to provide any evidence for their lawsuits.

Perhaps it's called an over-30 league because every game seems to produce over 30 injuries. (That's an unofficial number. It doesn't include any injuries suffered by referees, either during the game or soon after.)

Injuries occur partly because soccer is a contact sport. Players in my league contact each other, contact the ground, and, every now and then, contact the ball. Pretty soon, they're also contacting their doctor.

But in an over-30 league, you don't need contact to get injured. All you need is motion. Any motion. Some players, eager to help their teams, get injured while jumping out of their cars. Others get injured while running toward the field. A few get injured while stretching. That's why, to minimize injuries, I've decided to give up stretching. I don't want to take any chances.

Considering the frequency of injuries, it's no wonder players are required to sign a waiver, promising not to sue the league. Players are also asked to protect themselves by wearing shin guards and, if they're smart, bringing their own stretchers. A few bright players also wear jock cups, knowing that the world doesn't produce enough aspirin.

But regardless of the injuries, the over-30 league is quite competitive. Not all the players are in poor shape. Yes, some do get tired quickly, but others can maintain great intensity, without taking a breather, for at least an entire minute. Perhaps even two minutes.

Being an over-30 soccer player does have a few advantages. You have lots of experience and you can think fast. You know exactly what to do with the ball. If only you could get to it.

As I've come to realize, soccer isn't a sport designed for older people. There's far too much distance between the goals. It would be a lot easier if the game were played within one of the goals.

It would also help if the ball weren't so round. It rolls a little too fast. That wouldn't be a problem if we could play with several balls at once. When you have 22 guys trying to kick a single ball, you're asking for trouble.

It's a good thing my league has referees. They do a good job of keeping the game under control, especially when they're awake. (Players sometimes have to shout, "Wake up, ref. Didn't you see the foul?" That's yet another downside of America's growing problem of sleep deprivation.)

Even with all the injuries and limitations, soccer is an enjoyable sport -- no matter your age. I paid $35 to get into the league, so my expectations are high. I'll be very disappointed if we finish the season without a single pizza party.

1 comment:

Nigel said...


coupla things - ur right man - i just played cricket for two consecutive days & its aching all over - of course i gave it everything on the field - & now am paying for it.

as far as the tour de france - nothing short of inspirational - esp the story of Lance Armstrong - a cancer survivor who went on to win 7 times!! un be li va ble!
i watched his final (7th) victory from start-to-finish.