The Beautiful Game

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Once in a while I like to put aside my own nonsense and compile the gibberish of others to make a ‘found poem’. In reality, I’ve only actually done this three times on my blog, and the last time was back in 2016, so it’s not a regular activity. The last one was in honour of the Rio Olympics and in particular an homage to some of the banal nonsense that the pundits and commentators would come out with.

But if there’s one sport, which has absolutely nailed the art of total banality within its commentary, it would have to be football (or soccer to my US readers).

I don’t attach a massive amount of importance to football, but I’m quite happy to watch it if it’s on the telly, and it is quite a lot at the moment, due to the return of the Premier League as the lockdown eases and the world stumbles towards a state of affairs currently being branded as ‘The New Normal’. Due to the lack of crowds at the games, some of the matches are being shown on terrestrial TV, for free, for the first time in the UK since the 1980s.

So in honour of football’s return, I spent a small amount of time the other night half watching a game while trying to get my ‘daughter who doesn’t like to sleep’ to go to sleep. And for a brief period of time when I thought she had gone to sleep (oh poor naïve fool that I was), I jotted down some of the commentary, which I’d like to present to you today in the form of a poem. Not so much a ‘Found Poem’ as a ‘Heard Poem’.

If you were to stop reading at this point I would not blame you.

If you’d like to persevere, then here it is:

The Beautiful Game

That was nowhere near good enough or acceptable
They’ve not won a tackle
There’s three points at stake here
You’ve got win your first tackle

Can he get it up and over
The goal keeper got a hand on it
An unbelievable save
It shows how much quality is on that free kick

That’s not an easy finish
Look how much time and space he’s got
It’s a good ball
Very very good finish

They look fit and hungry
It’s of massive importance
He’s probably been their best player
Some tidy touches

They’re not even getting on the ball
They’ve got to score the next goal
We spoke about the importance of a fast start
They just seem so pedantic
It’s too predictable
They need creativity
They’ve not even had a shot on target
The players need to look at themselves
They certainly need something
They need a spark

It’s one of them to be honest with you
He’s won the ball cleanly
We have actually seen red cards given for this
There’s no intention
It’s a very harsh one
He got a foot in

The referee has said no foul but that is a foul
And this is in a good position
He just needs to stay on his feet
If they can get one here it just might be the beginning of a comeback

The midfield’s absolutely ran this game
He used the ball very well
It’s gone the other way
He’s no stranger to a yellow card

Heavy touch
Short touch
Corner kick
Well they might get one
But I don’t think they’re going to get two
That’s for sure
Shake of the head from the manager
Injury time and the end of added time and then not much time

Got to expect more there
I can only put it down to tiredness
You had to fancy him one on one there to get his goal

The referee having a little glance at his watch
And there we are
A richly deserved victory
All in all the game was won in the first half
Very thorough professional performance
They’re always well organised
We mentioned that before the game

 

It’s All Kicking Off

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s been a while since I last blogged. Possibly that is due to a certain amount of blogging fatigue accrued during the ‘200 posts in 200 days’ marathon of blogging that preceded this latest hiatus.

Or possibly I had nothing to say.

Then again, having nothing to say has never been a particular barrier before.

So maybe it was blogging fatigue after all.

Anyway, I appear to have been inspired to post something today.

I’m not sure why.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the World Cup started today.

I always enjoy the World Cup, although I’m not entirely sure why. I wouldn’t class myself as an aficionado of football, or sport in general for that matter. I’m definitely something of an armchair fan though.

I’ve always been a big fan of armchairs.

But I do like watching sport a bit, even though I play very little sport.

The World Cup has attracted some controversy this year, what with it being hosted in Russia, a country with a questionable human rights record.

I’m currently watching the opening game. Russia are playing Saudi Arabia, a country with a questionable human rights record.

It’s hard to know who to support really.

Then again, that sentiment could be applied to the whole tournament.

My own beloved Wales will not be there, having failed to qualify, which is not an unusual state of affairs.

I usually default to supporting England, but they never do that well either.

To be honest though, I generally enjoy watching all the matches, regardless of who is playing.

Mrs Proclaims does not share my enthusiasm.

In that regard we very much conform to stereotype.

I’d like to think that in other ways we don’t, but I’m struggling to come up with any good examples of us defying stereotypes.

It’s probably because I’m watching the football.

 

 

It’s The Taking Part That Counts

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Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

James Complains About Quite A Lot Of Things

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Although I tend to mock the whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions, January 2017 seems to have coincided with me ‘upping my game’ in blogging terms. I’ve been posting pretty regularly, a minimum of three times a week and on occasion four. Furthermore, although many of my blog posts have been in the form of bad poetry or bad art, Mondays have tended to be for a more considered, longer piece of writing.

That, people of the blogosphere, takes planning and effort.

Seriously.

It might not seem like it but those meandering Monday posts, with questionable grammar and no particular point, do actually take me a bit of time to produce. I generally take the whole weekend to ‘craft’ them. Continue reading James Complains About Quite A Lot Of Things

Dreamland

James Proclaims (4)Image result for Faw FootballIn the post Brexit bewilderment, many people looked to sport to lighten the mood. It’s pretty clear that the UK is currently in a political and economical state of confusion, and while the long term effects of leaving the EU (which we haven’t even begun the process of yet) may not be as bad as some people feared and almost certainly won’t be as good as some people hoped, the short term effects are palpable and largely unpleasant. Continue reading Dreamland

Bregrets, I’ve Had A Few

James Proclaims (4)

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Despite recent evidence to the contrary, this blog is not meant to be about political commentary. It’s meant to be a whimsical collection of bad poetry, rants about soup and toilet-based anecdotes.

But the fallout of Brexit continues to dominate the news and as a citizen of the soon-to-be-former EU member state, I feel I should comment on it. Continue reading Bregrets, I’ve Had A Few

All you will find out by reading this is that I have a new football.

James Proclaims (4)

Today I bought a football.

I know that there is something of an international readership of this blog, so I want to make sure everyone knows what I mean by ‘a football’. It’s an inflatable spherical object used to play a game of the same name. In America the game is called ‘soccer’ and therefore the spherical object is known as a ‘soccer ball’. That’s because in America there’s a different game that goes by the name of ‘football’. In the UK we call that  game ‘American football’, and the not-spherical inflatable object that is used to play ‘American football’, we refer to as ‘an American football’.

Now that we all know what I mean by ‘a football’, we can go back to the fact that I bought one today.

In fact I bought this one:

football

Now the fact that I’ve chosen to show a picture of the ball brings into to question my motivations for writing a paragraph about the differences between ‘American football’ and ‘actual football’. Because I’m guessing that most Americans can work out that the above object would be pretty useless in the NFL. I don’t know why I wrote that paragraph any more than I know why I’m writing this one. It’s probably a hangover from my undergrad days when ‘word count’ was everything…

I bought  the football because I’m working today. Which isn’t much of an explanation.

And it occurs to me that I’ve never really explained what I do. I’ve intimated that I’m a teacher and that is true. But I work in a more alternative type of education, aimed at kids who don’t really fit into mainstream provisions. In fact I’m kind of the head teacher of such a place. Which sounds vaguely prestigious until you see my salary…

Anyway, I’ve ended up having to work on a Saturday, which is dreadful and horrible, but actually the building I work in is quite pleasant and indeed without all the kids in, is not too bad a place to find myself. I’d rather be at home or out doing fun stuff, but the building I work in is, essentially, a converted large town house in Central Reading, with quite a big garden. So apart from all the boring paperwork I’m catching up on, I’m not that upset to be here.

But none of that explains why I bought a football.

So here’s why I bought a football.

Today I decided to drive in to work, whereas on the days I actually have to be here, I walk. Because I was driving in, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick up some stuff that might be useful for the coming weeks in the centre, because being all important, I have a ‘work credit card’ to buy essential supplies.

Given that the weather is nice, we’ve been doing lots of outdoor activities with the kids and so some of the stuff I decided to buy was sports equipment. To be precise, footballs, to be even more precise ‘actual footballs’ not ‘American footballs’.

The kids I work with like to kick a ball around. They also like to accidentally kick those balls over neighbouring fences, so we get through quite a few. So I bought mostly cheap, fairly rubbish footballs that we can afford to lose. But I did buy a fairly decent one for them to take to the park, which is the one pictured. But, as it was on offer, I thought I’d treat myself to one too.

Ok, you may be wondering, but what is the point to all of this?

Well there isn’t really a point.

But I do have a new football.

The Goblet of Football

James Proclaims (4)

This post is about football, so it would be remiss not mention yesterday’s Fifa election, which Sepp Blatter, won, essentially unopposed. Again.  This despite much public outcry and allegations of corruption. This is the world governing body of a sport is it not? Because it felt a bit like he had held onto power in an oppressed totalitarian state having fought off a rebel uprising. His victory speech was more than a little incoherent, I felt. But he did remind me an awful lot of Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films. Maybe that’s how he holds onto power. He’s actually a Sith Lord…

Anyway it’s the FA cup final today. It’s something of a marital cliché to suggest I’ll be watching it ‘if my other half lets me…’

But then she doesn’t really like football and I do, so out of courtesy I’m going to ask if she doesn’t mind ceding the television for the duration of the match and as I hardly ever ask, she’ll no doubt agree. We’re quite a functional couple in that respect.

I didn’t used to like football, because I’m not really very good at it. As a kid I was always the last to get picked at games. Even One-legged Jake got picked ahead of me, Which was particualrly embarrassing because he was my imaginary pirate friend…

Then again he does now play for West Brom…

As I entered my late teens, I began to realise that being able to do something well is not a prerequisite for being a fan of watching other people doing it. I’ve never been a particularly talented actor (though few can forget my turn as ‘First Bow Street Runner’ in a school production of Oliver! back in the mid-nineties) but I enjoy watching talented actors perform. I can strum a few chords on the guitar, but that certainly isn’t a prerequisite for buying tickets to see The Arctic Monkeys.

Football is entertainment. And sometimes it is exceptionally entertaining. Who can forget the classic FA cup final of 2006, when Liverpool beat West Ham, on penalties after each team scored three goals apiece during the game? Remember Stevie G’s thrilling equaliser in injury time? Well ok I didn’t really see that one. I’d only just started going out with my other half at the time and I was still trying to impress her. Not watching the FA cup final was part of my wooing strategy. Clearly it worked cos she married me.  But I digress; the 2006 FA cup final is a fine example of an entertaining football match even if I didn’t actually see it.

Of course there are examples of boring football games, but then there are examples of really bad plays and films too – Baz Lurhman’s ‘Australia’ anyone? That’s nearly three hours of my life I won’t be getting back.

I suppose football is more entertaining when you actually support one of the teams that are playing, but I think the FA cup final is one of those times when you can forego your usual loyalties and pick a team on the day. Today is Arsenal versus Aston Villa.

I’m going to be a Villa fan for the day, mostly because they’re the underdogs, but also because I’m in good company given that Prince William, Tom Hanks and Ozzy Osborne are all self-proclaimed Villa fans. I expect they’ll all be sitting together.

Another famous Villan is of course our beloved Prime Minister David Cameron. He loves the Claret and Blues. Indeed he loves Claret and Blue so much that he has affection for any team wearing those colours, which explains his ‘West Ham’ gaff during the election campaign.

I think people were overly harsh on him for that. He didn’t actually claim to support West Ham as such; he merely encouraged his audience to do so and given that he was speaking in South London at the time he was probably thinking of their geographical convenience. As I say, it’s the Claret and Blue that really matter to Cameron and West Ham are London’s best known team sporting those colours. It’s certainly no reason not to vote for him or his party. I didn’t vote for his party because I fundamentally disagree with everything they stand for, which is a much more sensible rationale.

He was particularly mocked by Piers Morgan for the mistake. Piers Morgan is famously an Arsenal fan, which is another reason I’ll be supporting Villa today. I’d rather side with a Prime Minister I didn’t vote for than Piers Morgan. Obviously Piers is an easy figure to hate, but he’s also the kind of person to respond on Twitter to a slight like the one I’m making right now.

And getting into a social media war of words with Piers Morgan is going to raise the profile of this blog immeasurably.

So come on Piers if you think you’re hard enough…