“IT’S just kids’ football, man,” the gentleman bellowed.
His reaction followed a remarkable turn of events at one of my son’s junior football games.
At 5-1 down with about 10 minutes left, the opposition scored a second goal. Another quickly followed.
It was 5-3 and only five minutes to go.
With a minute left, they grabbed another …crikey, it was 5-4.
As the clocked ticked down, the opponents won a free kick on the half-way line. Everyone piled into the box.
It was left to the goalkeeper to take the do-or-die free kick. It floated into the area, a goalmouth melee ensued and … the ball ended up in the back of the net.
The incredible, and unlikely, comeback was complete.
Except it wasn’t.
As the jubilant players piled on top of each other and parents jumped up and down on the touchline, the referee’s attention was drawn to the linesman. His flag was up. Offside.
After some considerable debate, the referee indicated ‘no goal’, the offside decision stood, and the final whistle went.
It would be nice to report that everyone shook hands and expressed joy at witnessing what proved to be an exciting nine-goal thriller.
But anyone with any first-hand experience of junior football knows this was never going to happen.
The linesman was one of the players’ dads, and on the final whistle found himself surrounded by parents from the opposition.
Expletives filled the air. There was much finger-pointing, puffed out chests, indignation and shouting.
The linesman was lucky to get off the pitch unscathed.
What amused me most was the man who bellowed: “It’s just kids’ football, man.”
Had he been rebuking the parents surrounding the linesman, his words would have had some merit.
Instead, he became a walking definition of irony. This parent was standing in the middle of the football pitch, shouting “It’s just kids’ football, man” at the linesman, before adding “You’re a ****ing disgrace.”
If it really is “just kids’ football” then what are you doing invading the pitch to bellow expletive-laden abuse at a child’s parent in front of kids?
To add to the surreal nature of the whole episode, it was watched by none other than Alan Shearer, he of some footballing fame. His son was playing for the opposition.
One of the invading dads tried to add some weight to his argument by pointing in his direction and shouting: “He’s a professional footballer, and he says it was never offside.”
And, of course, we all know that Mr Shearer never argued with officials and was, throughout his entire career, never booked for transgressing the laws of the game. In fact, he never once gave away a free kick, such was his honesty.
He was, and still is, unbiased to a fault. In fact, if you didn’t know he’d played for them, you’d never know he had a soft spot for Newcastle United.
To his credit, Shearer played no part in the pitch invasion. I’ve seen him at matches a few times.
But I’ve never seen him setting up the goals or taking up the linesman duties, given his pedigree, you’d think he’d do it every week. Anyway, this column isn’t about Shearer, it’s about kids’ football.
There was much consternation in the Russell Foster Junior League when it was revealed that youngsters signed up for academy sides, such as Sunderland or Newcastle, were being told that they couldn’t play for their local junior teams.
Seems fair enough to me. Gives more kids who can’t get into teams a chance to play at weekends. Others will disagree. But then, football’s a game of opinions. And in my opinion, it’s not the kids who need restricting with FA rulings, it’s the parents.
l AFTER Newcastle United won their third game on the trot, I mentioned to my wife that the Sack Pardew brigade had gone a little quiet.
Our Isaac, aged 10, piped up: “Maybe they’re doing a new website. Don’tSackPardew.com.”
You read it here first.