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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Football (soccer to U.S.A. folk) and footballers.

It cannot have escaped your attention, here in the U.K. at least, that SportUK who do drug testing of sports people here in the U.K. has turned its attention to football players. Amid much hyperbole there are some issues in getting this turned from mere talk to reality. This blog post though has little to nothing to do with that. Instead I will recount what happened during my formative years.

When I was a football playing lad back in the late 60's and early 70's it wasn't unusual to find oneself playing alongside or against the Hull City players of that time in the local park (Princes Avenue for us). They almost always turned up unannounced with a Watneys 8 pint beer tin. One or two per player. Of course not all the Hull City players of that time turned up but of those that did they were the stars of the team. Also, we used to get Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers players from the world of Rugby League. At that age, we were aged between 9 years old and 13 back then, we where much in awe of our fellow players. Why they chose our park we had, nor have even now, any idea but for whatever reason they did.

Sunday afternoons at the local park where always an exciting place to be for us as we never knew who or how many of our sporting heroes would turn up. More often than not they never turned up at all. Sometimes it was just the Rugby League players who did. Other times in was just the Hull City players. Now and again they all turned up on the same day and at roughly the same time. Maybe they all preplanned this but we will never know. Certainly, at that time, we did not care. They always headed straight for our lot which could have been down to our playing skills but was more likely because, outwardly anyway, we were not in awe of them and treated them as just another bunch of grown men that wanted to play football with a bunch of kids on a Sunday afternoon. Can you imagine todays elite 'stars' doing something like this? Turning up with no security guards present at a local park to play a few hours of football with some kids? I can't. Those days are long gone.

What always stood out though was that they were always invariably drunk either before they turned up and always after a few hours of playing football.

None of this is related to the drug testing being touted of course but as beer, these days more so than 10 or 20 years ago, has chemicals added that could be classed as drugs. I am not one who would claim beer drinking leads to a lifetime addiction as some claim. In fact I refute such claims totally. Coming from a family background that had many heavy part-time drinkers within it and once being a part of that myself None of us where  addicted. My father and Grandfather were both seafarers and only drunk beer when on land which would mean 3 to 4 weeks  abstinence, for my Grandfather who was a  fisherman, and anything from 6 months to 18 months abstinence for my Father who was a long haul seaman. Once on land though they would both drink themselves silly. Myself never went to sea, much to both their disappointment, however, drink I did. A lot. Not now though as I rarely touch any alcohol due to the medication i am forced to take. I say rarely because i do, now and again, have a pint but that event is so rare as to be easily discounted and well within the intake limits recommended by Government. But, I digress...

Back to those Sunday afternoon football sessions. These are highly unlikely to happen these days as both football and Rugby League players are much removed from such things now as can possibly happen. Back then both Hull FC and Hull K.R. were, as they are now, high flying teams. Hull City where in the old (ancient?) third division North and during the 70's in the old second division and the players of all three were just as happy amongst a group of school children as they were on the pitch. It would never happen today. Maybe in the lower leagues but certainly never from players in the Premier League and extremely unlikely from any in the Championship nor the super fit athletes that make up the Super League (Rugby League).

It does, however, give me something to recount to any Grandkids my offspring may provide. My life has been full of such things happening and it does seem a different world to the one we are living through now. In all probability it is a different world. It certainly shows how some things have moved on. Not always for the better though.

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