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02 January 2010

The Referee is an Idiot

(...and Other Travails of Being a Footer Mom)
You will note I did not say ‘Soccer Mom’. That is because I am not. If I were ever to desecrate the game by that name, I would be murdered, and, cut into the tiniest of pieces, disposed off in our backyard to help the daisies grow. (That gives new meaning to the term ‘Organic Gardening’ but that shall keep for another time.) Buried, that is, if our large dog of indeterminate parentage does not get to lick his chops over me first. Therefore: footer mom. Football, a game, for those of you who are still wondering what I am talking about, that is called soccer in the US, since football here consists of men running around in tights with the ball in their hands. You can see by this statement that I have been well trained.

The indoctrination began early. I already grew up with a sister who was football mad. And, cricket mad. And… You get the picture. Anyway, long story short, I knew enough about the game to know the positions, began to recognise players, and the ultimate acceptance of the game came when I used a poster of Zico to wrap a textbook. 

Fast forward many years later, and I got married to a football fanatic. (And, a cricket fanatic. And… Hmm, he should have married my sister!) When our older son was nearly five years old, we came to the US. A year later, he was playing the little league. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that he took to it like a duck to water, and I was the proud mother on the sidelines. I really and truly was. Even sacrificing my early morning sleep to see him play at 8 in the morning. On. A. Saturday. To hear my husband, who was assistant coach, be addressed as ‘acha’ by an entire team of six-year-olds. Not ‘Coach’. Not ‘Mr Warrier’. But, ‘acha’.

Little did I know what a monster had been unleashed. Conversations at home and over the dinner table revolved around ‘The Game’. If we weren’t watching our son play, father and son were watching a football game on television. If they were doing neither, they were watching an earlier game, recorded by yours truly while one was away at office and the other at school. If they were doing none of the above, then they were talking about the game and the players, why one team lost, why the referee was an idiot (by the way, that is a pre-requisite of every match discussion and post-match analysis), how many chances each team had on goal, how many were actually converted…

In the beginning, of course, I was very happy. Father-son bonding was great. Right? Right. Soon, unfortunately, they decided I couldn’t be left out in the cold (and it didn’t matter to them that I was very happy to be so), and so, in the middle of my cooking and their watching a game on television, I would be interrupted by shrieks from the living room. “Amma, amma, come here”, and I would leave whatever I was doing, and rush into the room only to find that one or the other team had scored a goal. I had been called to watch the replay.

And it wasn’t enough that I actually watched the replay while my vegetables were burning on the stove. I had to listen to “Did you see that goal?” (Not being blind…) “No, no, did you see how it curved past the goalie’s head?” (Same thoughts as earlier.) “Now, just see how he took that shot. And did you see Bergkamp’s pass?” (No, I didn’t. I was too busy watching Bergkamp.)

I would nod my head tolerantly and make appropriate noises to these and similar remarks that would follow me into the kitchen every game. (The name of the player in that last remark changed ever so often, lest you think the remarks were merely repetitive. And I, I continued to watch the player whom I fancied then.)

A couple of years went by and I saw my son get more and more involved with the game, getting out of the little league and into a club, courtesy his little league coach, who was famous for kicking water bottles onto the field whenever the referee pronounced a (dead wrong, in his opinion) decision against our team. He then became very Italian, waving his hands, and muttering what were definitely swear-words in his native tongue. And that was a blessing, since it would have shocked the parents even more if they knew exactly what he was saying. He made the kids laugh though, and by the end of the season, each knew enough Italian. This being a family newsletter, I shall forbear to translate even the mildest of the phrases they picked up.

My son spent six seasons with the same club until it disbanded, and I spent them, and subsequent years, standing on the sidelines, cold and shivering if it was fall, and cold, wet and shivering if it was spring. And did I forget to mention the mosquitoes, bugs, and no-see-ums, which were out in full force, be it spring or fall?

I do not know how many thousand miles I have driven, chauffeuring him to practices and games. And once he made the leap from club to state, it meant that I drove to practice four times a week, and we drove to games on both days of the weekend. We also drove to New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York, and we once flew to California. Through rain and wind, cold and colder, I have huddled under layers and layers of clothing, gloves, cap, thermal socks, and greater love (and discomfort) there cannot be, as countless parents like me on the sports circuit have discovered.

And oh, after all this, the referee is an idiot. Always. Unless we win.  

© Anuradha Warrier and Sameeksha
December 2009

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