Saturday 20th October
Jamie Hewitt’s goal was all that separated Burridge from Sporting Wessex. Before kick-off the referee checked the state of each player’s studs. Wary that his twenty-five quid costs could be rendered worthless under the weight of any libel from a reckless tackle. The kind that could cut to the bone even without assistance from the serrated edge of a football boot stud. But he need not have worried. Heavy rain has yet to turn recreation grounds across the south into quagmires. Players for the best part still hold faith with rubber studs. They’ll be no amputees this afternoon. Not from poorly kept footwear, anyway.
So he breathed life into the silver receptacle he shall communicate through now. It replaces his tongue during an afternoon where he no longer has a name. At best he’ll be referred to as “ref.” Through cupped hands and ever hoarser throats. But mostly he’ll be cursed by the coarsest of Anglo-Saxon from every corner of the field, by twenty-two men who sometimes even allow their hatred towards each other to dissipate momentarily in their consensus that this nameless man has not the slightest clue what he’s doing. And all for twenty-five pounds. What price sanity?
So for backing the referee turns instead to his linesman. There is nothing. Not here in the grass roots of the game, where substitutes are not only deemed surplus to requirements, but asked to run the line. Instead they drown in apathy, with only a fluorescent flag for company. Their bad decisions aren’t an effort to change the outcome of the game. They’re just too busy gawping at the snug fit of denim sat around the arses of opposing player’s girlfriends to notice that chances are squandered by a player in an off side position. By ten yards or so.