“Would you like to go this time?" , my wife enquired from the other end of the phone. This wasn't for a trip to shop or watch a rom-com, instead, she wanted to know if I'd want to go and play football with a few of her friends from office.
" Sounds great... I am in!", I replied, making sure that my voice was loaded with uncontrollable enthusiasm. Deep inside though, panick had struck hard.
I hadn't played football in 18 years, in fact, I hadn't really played a team sport in a decade. I told myself that it wasn't a big deal, after all , I wasn't called Speed Pete back in school for nothing. It would all come back to me the moment I would walk into the field. Besides, I had recently played cricket after a long time and I did well enough to get some cheers from the crowd. If anything, the ball here was much bigger and I didn't have to middle it with a 6 inch wide plank of wood. "Piece of cake", I told myself as I tied my shoe laces.
I knew I was clearly bluffing myself though. No matter how I much tried to comfort myself, I couldn't get myself to ignore the one bit that made all the difference - unlike football, you could hide in cricket. I know this because I’ve done it a million times - I would plant myself at a position in the field where the batsman was least likely to hit the ball. I would agree that it is easier said than done, but you could always figure out the blind spot with a bit of effort. Once you've got yourself in the comfort if this cove, all you have to do is hang around , encourage the bowler, and rush into the celebration every time a wicket falls. This would take pretty much of your playing time and nobody would ever get to know that ‘ butterfingers’ was your middle name.
In football however, no matter where you run, the ball invariably finds you. It will not only find you, but roll in nicely next to your feet, and invite you to make an ass of yourself. The other players would look at you expectantly at first but soon this expectation would turn into disbelief, followed by well deserved disgust.
I knew all of this but I had no choice. I contemplated making a late excuse but then my wife would've seen through it and the last thing I wanted was being asked to grow a pair. I dragged my heavy feet towards the field. Destiny had had me and I needed to play along.
Just so that I have the expectations set right, let me clarify that this isn't a tale of heroic turnaround. Nothing like that happened, not even a semblance of it. It actually went something like this -
I ran around the field in all earnestness, always alert and ready to contribute. Deep inside though, I willed with all my heart for the ball to stay away from me, but of course it didn't. It came to me several times and left me befuddled on every occasion. I noted that a funny thing happened every time the ball landed up with me; time changed it's pace and acquired a new formula . A second, which usually is a 60th of a minute, decided to promote itself and be more of a whole damn minute itself, which essentially meant that time really crawled for me.The ball came to be me, I looked at it and , in all possibility, it looked at me, and then we just stood there - right next to each other as I heard distant, helpless cries of - “ It’s all yours.. score it….”, while I did absolutely nothing useful.
The game got over after an hour, everybody shook hands, patted other's sweaty backs and left. I came home, showered, picked up my iPad, and kicked Brazil’s ass in a game of soccer.