I’ve been playing a regular kick about at the African Brother’s Football Academy for a coupla years now. In that time we’ve rallied together to stop the City Of Cape Town from closing us down, have had regular run ins with the police, bashed heads with angry residents, fought with other footballers over who had booked the bottom court first, formed friendships, engaged in fisticuffs with those same friends, and my game has improved so much that I’m no longer the last to get picked.
I only just recently started playing twice a week again, after the aches and pains got so bad that I needed a full seven days recovery between each game. You see, with no referee, tackles are spirited, we attack from all angles, studs showing, and then because we play in a box there’s no stopping this, there are no corners, there are no throw-ins, it’s like pinball in there, that room of doom, and it’s non-stop shots and blocks for a full sixty minutes.
It’s rare that I return home without a limp. In fact, RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – has replaced beer as my post-game ritual.
One thing that I noticed is that my boots weren’t protecting me quite like they used to back in the day. As the third XVs crash-ball wing I’d been stamped by the brutes that made up the Grey rugby team, in Bloemfontein, but that felt nothing like this. Now, thanks to being on the wrong side of 30 and boots made from tech-material better suited to prophylactics, those delicate bones in my feet are forever aching from being regularly hopscotched.
So when the time came for me to consider some new boots they would have to be a pair that harked back to the good ol’ days. Our league’s two leading goal scorers, Warbot and Bomber, both play in a pair of adidas Copa Mundial, a no-frills leather boot that piqued my interest.
The fact that the adidas Copa Mundial is made in Germany, from kangaroo leather, sealed the deal. And what I especially like about them is that in an age of day-glo neon colourways these haven’t been updated since they were first released.
No tech fabrics, no hyper-real, day-glo, Holifest colours, no flavour of the month player endorsement, no mi-coach capability. Classics. What took spotlight at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the year of my birth, is still on the market 32 years later. And while I’m getting slower, fatter, and that much more rubbish every year, the Copa Mundial has stood the test of time.
Which is all very well and good, but will they make me a better player?
Fortunately there are analytics at hand to determine this. Being the competitive bunch that we are, obviously we have a spreadsheet that gets updated after each game. This has as much to do with the quarterly – we divide our year up into four seasons – fines evenings that reward the standouts and punish the perennial failures.
Now I’ve only played one game in my new boots but if you stick around I’ll tell you what happened to Dwalla last night. Dwalla is as wide as he is tall, has a scar running down his forehead where a bouncer split his skull with a cricket bat and another deep scar near his eye, which he got when he came off of his skateboard going down Suikerbossie. Dwalla has the power to weight ratio of a Wildebeest and it’s not rare to see him doing handstand pushups as a warm up before each game.
Okay, so Dwalla was playing on the opposing team, we were one set apiece, with my team leading the goals in the deciding set and tackles getting riskier with there being so much at stake. Dwalla made a break down the line and having stamped him only minutes earlier in the box we collided like Godzilla vs King Kong. The result of this was Dwalla crawling off the court to tend to what he reckoned was a broken foot. Me? I had to cool off on the sidelines so that the rest of the guys could finish up four-on-four.
My team then went on to lose the game, which sucks as it was my first game in my new boots, but that’s only because I was red-carded, the first red-card in the history of our kickabout, and I like to think that we could’ve taken it had I not left the field. Anyway, what matters is that while I score an average of two goals a game, last night I’d already scored six goals, my personal best, before being sent off with ten minutes left of play.
So I’d say it’s a victory, but a Pyrrhic victory at best.
I kind of feel like George Best must’ve felt when, one day, while bringing up more bottles of vintage Champagne, a room-service waiter asked him, “Mr. Best, where did it all go wrong?”
There in the suite, spread out on the bed, was 5000 pounds that Best had just won at the horse races, and on top of it was Miss World.
So I lost my first game in my new boots.
Big deal. I’m still winning.
And Bart, Craig, Dwalla, Bomber, Cato, Jack, Ben, Micah, Warbot…
See you chaps next week.