Thur Mar XXV
Soccer – Beat the U14’s 2-1. Failure – I didn’t score. Hurt my back at some stage in the proceedings
A rare sighting of my competitive nature here. I think it is natural not to like losing, but I have always had high expectations of my own performance in sporting events. Any football match where I didn’t score was a failure, any rugby match where I didn’t either score a try, create one or prevent one a bad game.
Actually, I began being a bit more lenient on myself towards the end of my rugby days. I started counting interceptions and harassing the scrum half as positive contributions, too. I even developed a pretty effective way of breaking through a line-out to get to the half backs, based upon things I had learned from watching American Football.
And then there was the cheating. I know that this is an awful example to be setting, but rugby is one of those sports where sometimes breaking the rules and not getting caught doing it can be vital. I became an expert at committing the offence of handling in the ruck and getting away with it.
For those of you who do not follow rugby will need a word of explanation at this point, but everyone else can skip this paragraph. When a player is tackled and lands on the ground with the ball, his teammates will then try to knock the tackler and his teammates away from the ball. The tackling side will to get to the ball. This is called a ‘ruck’ and players are not supposed to touch the ball with their hands or arms. If you can surreptitiously play the ball backwards to your side with a hand, then your side will get the ball faster, but if the referee catches you doing so you concede a penalty.
One of my fondest rugby memories is of a game against a team called London Italian. They were a very good side – one of them had actually played at Twickenham for Italy – and my team were not much opposition for them that day. The match was played on a muddy pitch near the wetlands centre in Barnes, London (it is the only game I have ever played where goose excrement was a hazard). It is fair to say that some of the Italians were a little trusting and naive and therefore got a little annoyed by my antics, to the point where one of them came up to me and said in heavily-accented English “You are not supposed to touch the ball in the ruck, you know”. I just smiled back at him. I still don’t think that he understood.