Feet First

A poem about how Euro ’96 sparked off a life-long infatuation with football in Luke Edley’s boyhood days.

I remember when joy came in the shape
of a football, weather-worn, watching it scrape
along gravel roads, it rolled off green grass,
scuffed against kerbs in a misjudged pass.

“My bad,” I shout, shirt polyester,
prizing the ball out from under the Astra.
Leather flaps hung off, like loose bits of skin,
but boys will be boys when the sun’s setting in.

The new dawn ushered by Euro ’96
inspired new tactics for kids to get kicks:
The 4-4-2 of Game Boys thrown onto fires,
that static formation replaced by three lions.

They roared on TV, our Savannah call,
grandstanding opponents once and for all;
in Wembley they prowled with wild finesse,
paw-footing proud moments I’ll never forget:

Like Gazza’s flick over Hendry’s blond mullet,
volleying it home despite his beer gullet.
The Scots now vanquished, our rivalry set,
Gazza booted it hard in the back of the net.

Team-mates squirt water into Gazza’s gob
while I watched the TV, fiddling with pogs,
munching Push Pops with Irn Bru in beakers,
itching to dribble in my Nike sneakers.

I played swapsies with stickers from Match magazine,
my sugar rush soundtracked by Lightning Seeds.
With a moptop bowl cut and beshirted hijinks,
I was mad for it on Britpop and fizzy drinks.

Firing free kicks and practising penalties,
with mud-caked splatters all over my knees,
I slid in dirt and aped all my heroes;
like Seaman, Sol, Sheringham, and Shearer.

I played keepy-uppies long into the night,
a homemade trophy held aloft in delight.
The ‘NO BALL GAMES’ sign – a perfect goal-post –
rebounding daydreams and juvenile hopes.

In injury time I fell, feet first, into bed,
as goal celebrations cheered in my head.
And as the whistle blew, I wish I’d understood
that this was the end of my childhood.

Poet, humorous fiction writer and novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.

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