The 2 hostels never gelled. The No 1 was like a library: full of middle-class people and rude staff; the Gordon had me, Dave and Diane.
It is a common misconception that sport has a unifying effect. Were that the case then a little game of tiddly-winks would solve the Middle Eastern problems hands down. I have seen fully grown men become raving psychopaths over a dubious penalty decision and that is just Boy Scout football. Even at the Gordon tension was mounting.
“Girls must be in the team.” demanded Diane.
“They can’t play football, no good at all. Look, you don’t play football and we won’t knit, deal?” Dave was a West Ham fan so knew nothing. Any supporter that is happy when his team lose 4-3 should be regarded with suspicion. The arguments continued for days with varying degrees of ferocity. It took my mind off of the pots I was supposed to wash and never did. They had pasta welded to them most nights.
I was undecided whether to participate in this public relations exercise, but when Chucky deemed there should be 1 men’s game and 1 mixed game, I agreed to take part. I am not sure if it was my desire to encourage women in sport or whether I wanted to get closer to Diane. Like a bra I wanted to give support. Further, I needed to find out if anyone could play football from Liverpool.
The build-up to the match was like camping- intense. No excitement was permitted- sex only with one’s regular partner, no change there for me. I chose to play the continental sweeper role, as I once ate a croissant. I love to organise and encourage. I always tried to pass to a female, instead of making a pass at a female, unlike the others chaps. We took an early lead through an in-off-your-shin type goal just as in Scotland. There was mass hysteria from the crowd and jubilation from us.
At half time we slugged back as much water as we could. The opposition wanted to flood the pitch so that they could bring on their sub, their star player. It was as dry as a nun’s vagina but they did so anyway. John had been on some pro team’s books as a junior, usual story. I think he was probably ball boy. I picked up the gauntlet and stuck to him like glue.
Fortunately, he was completely left footed (not Catholic) and on the small pitch I could force him wide. He made me look better than I was, but it was harder to find a female with a pass. He beat a player and was flying at goal. Wham! I hit him with all my shoulder. Ouch, it hurt, but I could not let on. He felt it as well. I picked him up and he knew I respected him.
Towards the end of the match Diane shot from 10 yards. It took a deflection, although the press gave her the goal. Our side mobbed her. I was cooler and with a George Best swagger jogged over and offered her a kiss on the cheek. I think she may have preferred a smacker on the lips but we settled for the corner of the mouth. It was a start and I was glad my baggy shorts did not reveal my true feelings.
With a loud blast from the whistle, the match was over. I shook everybody’s hands and told them they played well. John came over and said, “That hurt, you know.”
“Hey, congratulations you guys.” as he showered the team with cuddles and beer. I declined both as Castle beer was South African and he could save his affection for the others.
The Gordon won the main match too, a resounding victory for the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. Everyone else saw just a football match.
Dave came over and asked how he had played. I told him that we could discuss it later. The blood drained from his face. “You mean I played badly?”
“We need to analyse your game, if we can call it that, in more detail.” Dave was a perpetual wind-up merchant but could not see that it was his turn.
“But I covered well, didn’t I?”
“Of course there were some positive aspects. It wasn’t all bad. Have a beer and forget about it. It’s only a game.”
I could not believe how easily I had sown the seeds of doubt into his mind. I noticed his normally smiling face become tense as he visualised each facet of his play. The bait had been taken, hook, line and sinker. There would be some mileage in this.
We returned to the hostel for some more celebrations. As we arrived, Steve and Nicole were leaving the shower together.
“Been bonking in the Glendower?” asked Dave unsubtly. Amid the embarrassment I added, “Any news of your husband?” I wanted to show Dave that I too had moments of bluntness.
“No, they’re still holding him.”
“Just like you’ve been holding Steve?” enquired Dave. That was the winner.
“F*** off, you twat!” was the Brummie’s terse reply.
Diane made her way to the shower and I offered to assist. Offer declined.
I went for my shower, along the corridor, up the stairs and through the kitchen. There was a distinct smell of stagnation that hung in the air. I made the decision that I was not going to do the washing up for other people. I had had enough of that at the Terminal, dead-end by name and nature. So, my solution was to place the dirty pots and plates under the draining board- out of sight, out of mind. Someone had left the door open. I kicked it closed.
That night I wrote the very first Gordon Gazette, a spoof of the afternoon’s entertainment. Everybody was slated including myself. The women were all awarded the Emily Pankhurst prize for proving that they could play football as badly as the boys. I saved the best comment for Dave. He got an Oscar for doing for football what Mother Teresa did for the pole vault.
Dave read it silently. All the hostel had cottoned on to what was happening. “Do you know Dave that milk turns quicker than you.” “Why did you go off at half time?” “You should have been left back, left back in the dressing room or right back behind the goal.” “You played well for your first game.” We did not stop until he stormed off in a huff.
“It’s my first game back since breaking my leg.” he whimpered. He was rewarded with a communal ‘Aaaaaah!’