We like it when the little guy comes out on top, don’t we? The underdog. Winning against all the odds. Like when my Jack Russell chased that Great Dane the length of Camps Bay beach. Actually, bad example. Because The Scrapster sees herself as very much The Overdog.
OK. Like when Samson pinged Goliath. That’s better. Or when Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup final. What am I talking about? I’m a Liverpool supporter. Or sufferer. So forget that.
Got it. Like this…
How was that?! Yowzers! You’re a penguin. You’re being chased around by about four ravenous killer whales keen to have you for a starter before the main course. You’re getting a little fatigued and your frantic little flippers are slowing down a tad. You spot a boat with a bunch of boring Norwegians on it…
You’re going to take your chances, aren’t you? You’re jumping straight on that boat and hope like hell that those fjordspeople aren’t going to bore you witless with their talk about, well, fjords, fjords and more fjords. Beats being scrunched up in a whale’s digestive system, doesn’t it? OK. Only just.
Still, a victory for the little guy there. Reminds me of the time old Nel, one of diminutive twins, got called out at big break by Buster Chadwick, the school’s 1st XV lock, and felled him with one almighty blow to the side of the head. It probably helped that his twin brother jumped on Chadwick’s back at just the right time and stuck his fingers in his eyes.
That little penguin didn’t have any twin brother doing him any favours out there in the big, bad ocean, did he? So, a very happy result. Glad you enjoyed that, Hatpeople. Always support the underdog is the moral of the story, isn’t it?
* And you can do that right now by clicking on that big banner thing up there on the top right of this page and nominating me in the South African Blog Awards. “Best New Blog” category, if you please. Only two days left before nominations close. Remember to enter your e-mail address, wait for the e-mail asking you to confirm your nomination for Fred “Little Guy” Hatman (http://www.fredhatman.co.za) and then sit back and sigh to yourself “job well done”. Because it will be. You might just have helped me get one over all those big, blubbery killer bloggers chasing me around the murky waters of the blogosphere and trying to gobble me up. Go on. Save a little penguin blogger today!
Football has been my life. Through my ADD-addled school years, my advent into journalism through the Durban Daily News sports department, my London life (1984-1997, RIP) and the ensuing topsy-turvy years, of marriage, divorce and loss, soccer has been the one constant. That and my addiction to Five Roses tea.
For as long as I can remember, I have slept, eaten and breathed soccer. I should have married it. I was quite handy at it, too, benefiting from being the only kid with a good enough left peg to raise an eyebrow on our phlegmatic Sports Master, old Jim Wright. So I got stuck out on the left wing, pumped crosses over to the 4ft 5″ centre-forward in our Pietermaritzburg Pirates under-14A team and slipped effortlessly into the role of deadball specialist.
I got the job of taking free-kicks, corners and penalties because, from the time I was two bricks and a tickey high, I practised with a tennis ball against the garden wall for every daylight hour God sent me that I didn’t have to be bored witless by some teacher with cornflakes in his beard droning on about Pythagoras’s Theorem, porto, portamus, portat and the dates and locations of Anglo-Boer War contretemps.
Then there was post-school practice sessions with Pelham Primary under-10 A, “pick-from-whoever-turned-up” games at the sports field at the end of Kinnoull Road using bricks and somebody’s little sister as the goalposts and highly competitive one-on-one games with neighbour Georges du Tertre in my backyard.
When the other boys in the neighbourhood were doing homework or otherwise inexplicably detained, I would go solo, holding mock FA Cup competitions, comprising 164 English clubs and held over several afternoons until I contrived to advance two teams, providing my own commentary as I played against myself, through to the final, usually Liverpool vs Manchester United. Liverpool FC, the club with which I have been obsessed since I was seven, always won.
Liverpool's Kevin Keegan, pretending to be me, rises fairly majestically to head the ball, watched by Terry McDermott Pic: Daily Mail
And my script required that Kevin Keegan would somehow levitate majestically above Martin Buchan to nod a Steve Heighway cross past a flailing Alex Stepney. Pretending, of course, that I was KK (well, I was), I would celebrate my winner for the Mighty Reds by hurtling through my mum’s rockery of cactuses (ow!) and other succulents, arms raised aloft, and slide across the lawn on my knees while making enough noise to mimic the roar of 30,000 crazed Scousers.
But let’s fast-forward, shall we, to yesterday afternoon. Ah, yesterday afternoon. A gloriously warm winter’s day in my newly-adopted village of Stanford, quaintly concealed in the Overberg mountains of the Western Cape. I walked a friend’s daughters Ruby (9) and Sarah (8), around to their friends to collect takkies (tennis shoes) and then, with Indica, Tayana and Dylan in tow, did my Pied Piper impression while marching them up the hill to the rugby field.
But there was no rugby to be watched. This, as is the case every Sunday, was “Soccer Day”. And once organiser Jan Troost had appointed two captains, teams were selected in the time-honoured method, the skippers taking turns to pick the best players available. I, roughly 86 years older than everybody else – and ostensibly there to watch, shout encouragement and provide some tactical tips, was shocked to be the first to be called out.
Ah, but my captain had a cunning plan. Stick the big, balding ballie (old guy) in goal and he’d fill up most of it, denying the opposition the opportunity to score. This worked a treat. Until I had a rush of blood to the head, regressed to 1977 and thinking I was Kevin Keegan and, abandoning my goal area, bulleted down the right in search of glory. It all came rushing back, my beer boep (paunch) jellying as I danced past the demonic tackles of 10-year-olds, ignored the cries of “Pass!” from my pre-pubescent team-mates, executed a Jonah Lomu run-over of a hapless defender in pink bowtied pigtails and unleashed a bazooka-like shot high into the top corner. “Goal!” “Laduuuuuma!”. Both teams stared at me in equal measures of disbelief and disgust and shrieked “You’re supposed to be the goalie!”
Ruby Walne (9) is about to boot the ball upfield while boys prostrate themselves before her in yesterday's game at Stanford's rugby field. This wouldn't have happened in my day!
I wisely chose not to re-enact my “sliding-knees-on-Wembley-turf” celebrations of my golden years, covered my face with my hands and loped ashamedly back to my goals. I had to resign myself to getting my bulbous bulk in the way of almost every shot nine-year-old Tayana Dorland, the opposition’s hotshot striker and a girl to boot, bulleted my way. To the point where the young prodigy strode up to me, slapped me on the boep and muttered: “I’m getting sick of you always getting in the way of my goals!”
It was so much fun. These kids, the beautiful and free-spirited children of Stanford, are infected with World Cup fever. And I, just an overgrown kid among them, am no different. Yes, I am literally spilling out of my skin for this, South Africa’s, World Cup. Yes, there will be challenges and there will be difficulties. But I believe that I speak for most South Africans when I say that I regard the 2010 World Cup as a humungous opportunity to show the world what we are truly made of. We are humbled by this gift. I have no doubt that we will give our planet the friendliest, happiest, most human-spirited World Cup.
Back in the day when I was playing at being Kevin Keegan and Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben island and our South Africa was horribly skewed in hatred and pain, I never believed that the younger generation of British footballers I so adored would play on the same soil as our national team.
But it is here. It is real. And it is ours. Let us dedicate it to our children who tonight will dream of rising effortlessly above John Terry to nod the ball past David James for Bafana Bafana’s winner in the World Cup final. I did say “dream”!