Bigger goals

The generator is humming today, but it’s the crickets buzzing that grab my attention. There must be so many, hidden in the grass. Krrrrrrrrrrrt. Krrrrrrrrrrt.

Don’t they get crushed by the boots?

I breathe heavily, not quite panting, but close. My heart bumps as I regret a lack of exercise over the past week. Month. Year.

I track forward, then back, a weather vane spinning as the flow of play turns me once, then again. A familiar twinge as first my left, then my right achilles cries out.

I’m getting too old for this.

But I love it so damn much.

Football is king here. Cruise round country and it’s a stone guarantee that you’ll see ten, twenty, even thirty young boys (why always boys?) chasing a ball.

To most outsiders, the typical pitch is little more than a red-dirt, uneven, bumpy patch of land, bereft of marking or sidelines, usually nestled abruptly against a too busy street or highway. Makeshift goals, usually torn-up shoes or a couple weathered, just big-enough rocks. To most outsiders.

But to these footballers, it’s Camp Nou, 100,000 deep. And nothing matters besides the ball, the score, the game. Football is life.

Today’s game is on grass.

It’s been some twenty years since I played on grass. The ball off your foot, the way it travels, the smell, the sound. There’s nothing like it.

When word gets out there’s a game, we get players. Real players. These guys are good.

Danny, sinewy, a spider. Always the ball, in sight and mind. When he’s ready, he dives in, all in. But still in control. It’s inevitable that he comes away with the ball at his feet, and once he does, he lays it square to

Gideon, the vet. Still fleet, still cagy. Not afraid to make me look bad. And in this moment, he does. He feints left, dodges right, ball tethered to his feet. He plays the ball to

Coach, the thinker. Constantly directing traffic, he’s lost a step, but makes up for it with savvy. And strength. A kindred spirit, I dream to play like him. He makes a move but is dispossessed by

Alfred, all legs and pace, flash and smile as he’s by you. A lightning bolt, daring you to take him on, daring to take you on. He veers quickly right, laying the ball square to

Ben. The Maestro, the Engine. Playing 3D Chess as the rest of us struggle to get our checkers in place on the board.

I don’t always feel like I belong with these guys. They’re younger, fitter. Better.

But I still have my moments. A graceful pass, a deft feint. A searching ball over the top, paced to lead a teammate on. They don’t happen as often as they used to. But when they do, I’m afloat.

The games are battles. We’re all in, and we play like it matters, because it does. Because football is life.

But, at the end of it.

It’s these moments, post-match, that I’ll remember. Full of heart and sweaty affection for one another. Full-bodied handshakes with a hug and a snap. We are all damp stink. But it doesn’t matter.

Laughter catches as we recap, talk smack, surprises, miracle plays. Always the mistakes, especially the mistakes.

In these moments, we are here. And we are together, and football is all that matters.

I’m getting too old for this.

But I love it so damn much.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

Join the Conversation


  1. You’ve made me full in love with the beautiful game all over again. You are lucky to have the gift of community to share this football bond with. Keep playing to stay forever young!


  2. This is just amazing. a commentary introducing the various characters in your story. Oops players in your team, same thing. This was another great read, there is so much in it. “We play like it matters…because football is life.”


  3. I am.lost for words. I was described as the thinker. Yes I am getting old for this but football is life. Football is my life. I eat football, think football and dream football. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

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