A pair of gloves a goalkeeper doth not make

The half-time whistle was blown and the two teams walked from the pitch. Many of the spectators left the stand to go to the catering stalls.

The fifteen minute break gave an opportunity for the junior teams to come onto the field for their games. Each club had one-quarter of the pitch and training poles were pushed into the grass to serve as goalposts.

The nearest club were dressed in green and white. Their coach divided the fourteen players into two teams. One team put on blue bibs over their shirts to differentiate them from the other.

The team with the blue bibs clearly included the regular goalkeeper. His shirt was yellow and he wore a large pair of goalkeeping gloves and was confident in his play.

The opponents included the team captain wearing a red armband with “C” on it. A tall girl whose ball control skills enabled her to beat numerous players, she must have felt considerable frustration at losing 3-0 to the blue-bibbed team.

The problem with the captain’s team was their goalkeeper, who demonstrated clearly that he had neither the desire nor the ability to stand in the goalmouth, whether it be between orange training poles or white goalposts.

A short boy with glasses, he wore a black regular pair of gloves and looked as ill at ease in being asked to play in the position as the yellow-shirted boy looked comfortable.  Perhaps the gloves were for appearance’s sake, for he made no attempt to either pick up the ball nor to stop shots.

How had he come to be playing in goal?

Does the tradition still exist of those wishing to play a game of football lining up against a wall or fence while the two captains take alternate turns to pick players for their team? Are the captains still the two best players? Or, sometimes, are they the owner of the ball for one team and the toughest among the boys for the other?

And the players like the bespectacled wearer of the black winter gloves, are they still treated as they were fifty years ago? Are they the last to be chosen for the team and are they always the ones who have to play where they are told because everyone else thinks themselves a better player? Are there still moments when teams in jumpers for goalposts games sometimes play with no goalkeeper because no-one wants to play in goal?

Football does not seem to have changed so much.


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