HEAVEN  XI ...and on the 8th day God created Football.

HEAVEN XI ...and on the 8th day God created Football.

A Story by HoWiE
"

Bill Shankly once said, "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."

"

 

The First Half - Crossing Over With ‘Rocket’ Ronnie Munslow.

 

“Rocket! You are f*****g s**t!”

I slumped miserably to my knees and watched the ball bobble out for a goal kick.  Davey Collins, local hard nut, forklift driver, midfield general, club captain and, as it happens, unremitting c**t, came stamping over, throwing violent hand signals.  “For f**k’s sake, it was harder to hit the f*****g target!”

I pressed my forehead to the turf.  The seconds were ticking away, we were 2-1 down; a goal would have kept us in it...

Instead, at the critical moment (with the keeper in no man’s land and I with an open goal looming) the ball hit the toe of my standing foot.  Intending to put my laces through it and hammer it gloriously into the roof of the net (rather than simply and safely place it), I swung my boot.  The ball now unexpectedly at shin-height skewed off my shin-pad, ballooned up into the air and wide of the post, to a chorus of sarcastic cheers.

“All you’ve got to f*****g do is f*****g keep your eye on the f*****g ball!”  Davey Collins was still remonstrating at me.  “It was an open goal!”  He was spitting now and making various accusatory comments about barn doors and my inability to hit them.

To be honest, I wasn’t really listening... I was having a heart attack.

Oh s**t... I really was.

 

It wasn’t the first time I’d died on my arse in front of goal but it was the first time I’d died on my arse in front of the goal. 

The pain in my chest was terrific. 

I had sudden flashbacks to the Dominos Pizza’s ‘2 for Tuesdays’ offer and too many man hours in front of Call of Duty.  25 pints of Old Speckled Hen of a weekend probably wouldn’t have helped either.   I realised with a rather deflated notion that I had wasted all but a few moments of my 35 years on this planet.

There was an odd reeling sensation and I think I wet myself... which was nice...  Warm.

Now some say that near death experiences include bright lights and tunnels or angelic choruses or dear departed family members beckoning you into illuminated portals.  I half expected to see a white bearded fellow in a flowing robe sat in front of a set of highly veneered Pearly Gates.

What I actually saw was quite different:

My formerly alcoholic, knuckle-tattooed, Nan wearing a striped scarf and holding a tray of tea and biscuits.

 “Hello pet,” she said, a cigarette hanging loosely from the corner of her mouth.

I think I must have looked somewhat downcast because she set the tray down upon a table and said, “I know, I know, I know...”

I stopped and stared.

She gave me a semi-sympathetic look over the rims of glasses and smiled her Fixodent smile.  “Come and sit down pet and have some tea.”

I sat down. Dumbly.  Nan poured some tea and slid the cup across the lace tablecloth.  “Have a biscuit; you’ve had a long journey...”

“Am... I...?”

“Dead? Yes...  well eventually.  You decided to tie up a hospital bed for a month while you were in a coma.” She blew a smoke ring and jabbed her cigarette at me.  “You should have probably looked after yourself a little more you fat f**k.”

I blinked. That was Nan, always straight to the point and blunt as a bowling ball.

I bit into a custard cream. Dismally. “I think that’s a case of Gate, Horse and Bolted there Nan.”

“Oh well,” she said dismissively, “no use crying about it now.”

“I s’pose.”  I ate another biscuit. Nan’s relatively sparse sympathy wasn’t a great surprise but I did feel she could have made a bit of an effort.  It had been a bit of a shock after all.  It was then that I stared down at myself.

“Why am I wearing my Arsenal football strip and footy boots?”

“It’s what you were buried in pet,” Nan said, sipping her tea sagely.  “Denny and Kirk said that’s what you would have wanted.”

“Oh, right.” I gave a nod; actually, they were right.  I felt quite chuffed to be honest.  It was the new shirt 2010-2011 season kit too.

“What’s it say on the back?” I said, tugging at the shoulder and twisting my head.

“Deceased 73.” She answered.

I grinned. “That’s brill’.”

“Those who have crossed over always come across in whatever they were laid to rest in.  This place is chock-a-block with men in Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops and togas...not a bloody Roman among them mind. There’s a young man in a bloody chicken suit living down the road.”

After a short while Nan glanced at her watch. “Well pet I suppose we had better get going " it’s time...”

“Time?”

“To meet the man, of course.” She seemed surprised.

 

Nan tottered alongside me as we made our way along a vast stone walkway. It was one of those gothic arched structures that seemed to stretch away forever.  “This is nice,” I said.

“Yes, we’ve just had it Photo-shopped,” Nan replied.

“That’s VIP Afterlife over there,” she pointed out as we passed what looked a little like a Golf and Country club.  She put a hand to the side of her mouth conspiratorially and whispered, “we call it ‘The Ivies’.”

“There’s a VIP area?”

Nan shrugged.  “The Afterlife’s not much different from Earth in many ways.  The Ivies is reserved for the ultra-religious:  Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, Ghandi, David Beckham... when he goes...”

“Beckham?”

“When he goes... it’s not for a while, but he does have a penthouse already reserved on Cloud Bluff.”

“...And I thought Ghandi was a Hindu.”

“Ohhh,” she batted a hand away though the air. “All that bloody nonsense, potato- potahto " the afterlife is the afterlife whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew. You pretty much get what you pay for here... either way.”

“I bet. It does look nice though.” I said trying to glimpse through the gates.

“You wouldn’t like it anyway dear; you have to wear a tie to get in.  Well anyway... here we are.” She announced.

 

It was a field.

...A football field.

 

The Second Half  - "God Looks Like Ray Winstone"

                “God looks like Ran Winstone!”

                “Not too smart are you,” Nan said evenly, drawing a hip flask from her coat pocket and pressing it to her lips.

                I stared at the man in the sheepskin coat standing at the side of the football field, puffing casually on a cigarette.

                “Does everyone smoke here?”

                “Don’t be so wet, it’s the afterlife, we’re not likely to get cancer are we?” Nan replied.  She nudged me forward.  “Well... go on...”

                I’d met Paul Hogan once at Finsbury Park tube station so I knew how to handle myself around famous people, but I have to say, I was a bit nervous.

                “Erm... all right?”  I said.  “You look a lot like Ray Winstone.”

                God puffed on his cigarette and blew a smoke ring into the air.

                And lo He created man in ‘is own image.” He replied hoarsely and with sarcasm.

                “Yeah...” I scuffed a toe on the turf and cleared my throat.  “Though to be honest, I’m a bit surprised really as... well... I wasn’t really sure that... umm...”

                “Weren’t sure that I existed?”  A faint smile / grimace cracked his features. “I get that a lot these days.”

                “Sorry.”

God shrugged.  “Don’t worry about it, they’ll all fackin’ burn.”

I didn’t really know what to say about that because I wasn’t sure whether it was a joke or not.

“A lot of bad people out there sunshine,” he added, scratching his cheek. “Lot of people banging on the door...”

                “I’m not sure I’ve ever been that bad to be honest...”  I scratched the back of my head self-consciously.

                “Ever fancied yer mate’s missus?”

                “Erm...”

                “Ever taken the Lord’s name in vain?”

                “Well... yes I suppose-.”

                “Nicked anyfin’?”

                “I robbed a traffic cone once...”

                “Well that’s 3 out of 10 Commandments... shall I go on?”

                “I guess not...” I toed the ground again, slightly ashamed.

                God puffed out his chest and stared out across the field.  “There’s a game comin’... a big one.”

“Is there?”

“You betcha boots there is...”  God fired me a sideways glance. “What I got to work out is...” He nursed his chin. “Are you match fit?”

“Match fit? For what?”

“Fack me,” God muttered. “Where was you when they was ‘andin’ out brains and eyeballs?”

He nodded towards the other side of the pitch. “Top of the league clash... and them c***s over there.”

I stared at a group of figures who stood on the sidelines staring back at us.  Their features seemed to shift and alter as if they didn’t really want me looking at them and seeing who they really were.  A darkness swirled about them like ink in water; it was a pretty cool effect.  At the forefront stood a man taller than the rest, bald, pale and (well I’m not a poof but...) beautiful.  He was like Johnny Depp and Zinedine Zindane rolled into one; feet of an angel and cheekbones to die for.  He had a football tucked loosely under his arm.

He spoke, his voice rich and vibrant, it seemed to echo in my mind even though he was a full 100 yards away.  He said.  “If there’s grass on the pitch... then play ball.”

I remembered making the comment once about a girl I’d met in a pub who looked suspiciously close to the legal age of consent and suddenly felt a little sick.

“Is that... is that who I think it is?”  I whispered.

“You bet it is...” God muttered. “The smarmy prick.”

“Did he read my-”

“Mind? Yes he did.” God laid a hand on my shoulder and added. “Oh and don’t worry, she was 17...”

“Oh thank God.”

“Don’t mention it... no-one likes a nonce.”

He guided me away from the pitch side and towards a set of changing rooms that had (mysteriously) appeared from out of the mist.

I made the mistake of glancing over my shoulder at the other team and immediately wished I hadn’t.

The tall man winked.

 

The Third Half - “Winning isn’t the end of the world” David Pleat

            “If we don’t win this it’s the end of the world,” God said. “Remember that.”  He had turned up the collar of his sheepskin coat and jammed a f*g into the corner of his mouth.

                “That’s why I’m sticking Rocket here up front.”

                “What?!” I choked.

                “He’s our fox in the box.”

God tapped the whiteboard with his Magi-Marker.  “Right fellas, listen in.  We’re playing a 4-4-1-1 formation with wingbacks raiding down each wing and Rocket up top on his lonesome, Macarius I want you to tuck in behind him and act as a feeder.”

“Will do Lord.” Macarius said with a three fingered salute.  He looked at me and gave me a double thumbs up.  I couldn’t help but notice that his skin... well... it wasn’t in the best of conditions... and one of his thumbs was missing.  I think my expression said it all.

“Died of leprosy,” God whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

Macarius politely pretended not to hear.

What. The. F**k.

God began jabbing his finger at people and outlining their positions.

 “Joseph, you’re between the sticks my son.”  A rangy, moustachioed fellow was busy limbering up, squatting and stretching out his quads in the corner of the room.  He looked vaguely familiar and was sporting a tee-shirt that said, ‘Jesus Saves’.  I was slightly perturbed to see that on the back were printed the words ‘(but Satan scores on the rebound)’.

God noticed this and shook his head ruefully. “Everyone’s a fackin’ comedian...”

“Anyway, tactics...” He began scrawling on the board.  “Right, listen in! Watch out for their target man, he’s a big lad...glows in the dark, great smile... but good with his feet and is as swift as greased s**t off a Teflon pan so don’t let him get behind you. .. I also suspect he’s a sodomite so there’s some extra incentive.  I want that defence f****n’ Ark-watertight, yeah?  If they go one-up and get a foothold they’ll sit back, soak up the pressure and pick us off on the break " their wingbacks are lightning.”

I watched a tall, wild eyed man with a flowing black beard and threadbare robe grunt and pull his knee up to his chest.  Surprisingly flexible for a man of his obvious advancing years, I thought.  He was going to be bossing the centre of defence and certainly cut an imposing figure.  He also looked a little familiar... Dumbledore? No, that’s f*****g ridiculous...

“Get the ball inside and then spray the flanks, work the channels, see if we can catch their wingbacks up the field, they have pace but their engines aren’t great " if we can get in behind them fizz the ball across the box, keep it low and hard, they’ll beat us in the air all day...” 

“And remember, low and hard....” He made some odd thrusting movements with his hips and the team talk was done. God tapped the board with his pen. 

“Right, I’ll see you ‘orrible lot outside!”

 

The Fourth Half - Match of the Day

                I laced my boots up tightly, my mouth was dry and my heart was thudding.  “No pressure sunshine,” God said patting me on the back. “But don’t f**k it up.”

                It was half-time in a pulsating game that was tightly poised at 1-1. The pace had been frantic and I was more than ashamed to say that I was more than a little out of my depth, the standard was exceptionally high. I’d barely gotten hold of the ball and my nerves were getting the best of me, my first touch had been dire (worse than normal in fact) and I had been at fault for the goal in the opening minutes.  I received the ball in the middle of the park and immediately lost possession - I could hear God shouting at me from the sideline, he did not sound happy. I thought heard the word ‘Wanker’ but decided to believe that he was talking about someone else.  They went down the other end and stuck one away 1-0...

                Luckily we struck back on the half hour mark. Our winger fizzed a ball across the edge of the 6 yard box, I reacted too late but our centre back came thundering into the area, rose like a salmon and, like the wild-eyed, bearded ghost of Tony Adams, nodded the ball into the top corner:  1-1!

 

                I forearmed sweat out of my eyes.  “Can’t you just pull me off?” I pleaded.

                “No time for homosexual euphemisms sunshine, get aht there, the world is your lobster!” God said shoving me in the back. “Besides I ain’t got anymore strikers!”

                I staggered back out onto the field on Bambi legs.  I closed my eyes " Please don’t f**k this up... Please don’t f**k this up... Please don’t f**k this up "

 

45.00

                The second half started much the same as the first had ended, with frenetic pace and crunching tackles. Heaven v Hell, this was as big a grudge match as it came (with the exception of perhaps Rangers / Celtic).  I managed a couple of useful touches in the early part and that helped settle some of my nerves. 

57.35

I capitalised on a lucky bounce that looped over the opposing midfielder, and was back charging down the field.  As per God’s instructions I looked to push the ball out to the wing.  Our winger streaked past me shouting “feed me, feed me!”

I spied a gap between the encroaching defenders and shifted the ball to the right with the outside of my foot.  The winger sprinted into the gap drawing the defenders out of position giving me two options, the first, feed a nifty reverse ball into the space for the winger to run onto or to shift it to the right again and go for glory...

                I feinted left and sold the defender a dummy. I pushed the ball to the right again leaving him wrong-footed and brought my foot back. The goal suddenly opened up with only the keeper to beat (a very familiar bearded looking chap). 

Just hit it... just hit it... just-  I pulled the trigger.

FATOOOM!!

My body curled around the shot as I put my f*****g laces through it. I felt my synapses crackling and the weight of the ball against my boot. Everything became crystal clear, High Def and all consuming " it was pure Zen; the ball was an extension of me... of my being.

Unfortunately, my being was busy rising and ballooning away like a f*****g pig on acid, up over the bar and into the ether.

“Oh f*****g hell...” I put my head in my hands.

“You cuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnt!”  I could see God shaking his fist at me from the sideline.  It was the first time I’d incurred God’s wrath and I didn’t really care for it.

66.06

                It was shortly after that that one-thumbed midfield maestro, Macarius, pulled up suddenly and signalled to the bench. “My hamstring... it’s gone!” He complained.

                “You should ‘ave warmed up properly,” God barked stabbing his finger at him. He made a circular motion with his fingers indicating that a substitution should be made.

                “No I mean it’s gone... it fell off near the centre circle...”

                Macarius limped off clutching the back of his thigh. I saw God remonstrating, with his arm around the shoulders of a hunched over figure who was tugging his socks up, and imparting advice on whom to kick and where.

                There was something unerringly familiar about the substitute...

                Something... alarming.... something wrong... completely wrong...

                “Jesus William H Macy!”

                Davey Collins, local hard nut, forklift driver, midfield general, club captain and, as it happens, dead, came stamping over. “You try that wild samba style s**t again Munslow and I’ll boot you so hard you’ll have to unlace your head to comb your hair.”

                He certainly wasn’t the saltiest peanut in the bowl...

                “What happened? How did you get here?”

                “Don’t ask...” He spat and then told me anyway.  “The Missus reversed the car over me by accident...” He shook his head. “Silly b***h...”

                “She must be devastated...” I replied blandly.

79.47

The minutes ticked down with neither side giving way.  As we entered the last 10 God started shouting at us to keep our shape, maintain our discipline and stay in position. This, as ever, proved to be the kiss of death...

                Almost immediately our left back went in wild on their striker as he broke into our area; an X-rated, both feet, studs up, from behind, career threatening, horror show of a tackle.  The striker hit the floor hard, dropping like a sniper’s victim.

                “Take that you posh blonde c**t!” Our defender stood over him, seething.

                It left the referee with no option. 

It was a straight red.

And a penalty.

And all of a sudden we were 2-1 down... disaster.

81.05

God was absolutely apoplectic. I thought he was going to cause another flood.

He was waving us forward. “Get forward, get it in the box!”

A defeat would clearly end our title challenge. We had to salvage a draw, at the very least.

84.55

                Davey Collins powers a header against the bar.

86.02

                We pour into the box as the ball flashes across the goal. The keeper comes for it. Misses it. The big fellow with the long dark beard who looks a little like Dumbledore but isn’t Dumbledore slides in " it’s goal bound!

                NO! Cleared off the line and hoofed into the safety of the centre circle.

                We begin to rebuild...

88.09

                Our right back skips a tackle and comes marauding down the wing.  A quick one-two and he lashes it into the box again. It takes a deflection, scudding off their full back’s shin pad and canons against the post! OOOOOHH SO CLOSE!

88.21

                A corner: time is running out. I thread my way into the box and stand right in front of the keeper surreptitiously standing on his toe with my heel.  He leans in and places a gloved hand on my shoulder and whispers politely through his hippy beard, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

                The ball is floated in and Davey is up at the front post to flick it on.

                The keeper shoves me in the back and comes for the ball with an almighty shout.

                “KEEPERS!”

                He clatters into the surging throng and claims the ball, hugging it to his chest and crashing to the ground.

                Davey looks at me and shakes his head.

89.54

                Our opponents stream forward, catching us on the break. We’re too far up field.

                It’s 3 v 2 at the back and I pump my legs to try and get back but they’re so fast.

                Another quick one-two, mercurial passes and the centre forward bursts into the box with only our goalkeeper to beat. Joseph, his moustache twitching comes bounding out to narrow the angle.

                A glorious chip. Imperious stuff!

                3-1?

                NO! AN AMAZING REFLEX SAVE!! Joseph manages, somehow, to claw the ball away with the tips of his fingers and to safety.

                He’s kept us in it.

90.33 (+1 minute of added time)

                The ball is gathered up by our keeper who has played a blinder. It’s possibly the last attack of the game... our last chance.

                Joseph punts the ball up field.

                It’s flicked on. A bit of ball juggling in the middle of the park.

I run onto the loose ball with their hulking midfielder bearing down upon me. The ball comes off my shin-pad, hit’s him on the knee, bounces back, strikes my thigh and bounds on.

Suddenly I’m the clear and I’m running.

Suddenly I’m Michael Thomas, it’s the last minute at Anfield, it’s the last game of the 88-89 season and we need just one more goal to clinch the title. I’m one on one with the keeper...

I am Michael Thomas.

I am Michael F*****G Thomas!

90.43

I swing my boot... FATOOM!

Pick the bones out of that one c**t bubble!

 

90.45

“Rocket! You are f*****g s**t!”

I slump miserably to my knees and watch the ball bobble out for a goal kick.  Davey Collins, local hard nut, forklift driver, midfield general, club captain and, as it happens, still an unremitting c**t, comes stamping over, throwing violent hand signals.  “For f**k’s sake, it was harder to hit the f*****g target!”

I pressed my forehead to the turf.  The seconds had ticked down... a goal would have kept us in it...

 The final whistle goes.

It starts to rain.

Ray Winstone is watching me from the sidelines, his hands plunged into his pockets. He looks smaller now. Defeated.

 

I look up; the field is empty save for me and my Nan.

She still has that stupid scarf around her neck.

“I don’t get it...” I moan.  “How could it happen?”

“You should have kept your eye on the ball pet,” my Nan says.

“No... I mean... this is Heaven... it shouldn’t be like this...”

“Heaven?” She blinks.

I stare up at her, mud on my chin.

“You think this is Heaven?”  She says.

“What?”

She points at Ray Winstone, he’s lighting up another f*g. “Who do you think that is? God?”

“Isn’t... he?”

“Why on earth would God choose to look like Ray bloody Winstone?”

“I thought... I thought...”

Nan gives a bit of laugh and puts her hands on her hips.

“Bloody hell pet,” she says. “Who did you think you were playing for? You had Joseph Stalin in goal and Rasputin as your centre back for pity’s sake.”

Oooooh... Dumbledore...

The light was gone from the pitch.

I looked back to see the clouds swirling around us, that cool effect... it wasn’t cloaking our opponents from us.

It was cloaking us from them.

“Cheer up,” Nan says, “you get to play them again tomorrow... and the day after and the day after...”

And the day after...

 

 

 There was nothing wrong with the performance, apart from throwing away the game." Glenn Hoddle

 

 


© 2010 HoWiE



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That was amazing.
Such a great story pal!

Posted 4 Years Ago


Brilliant stuff!
Finally a football story on here. Not only funny but packed with adrenaline.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on October 15, 2010
Last Updated on October 15, 2010
Tags: sport, football, soccer, God, Satan, Good, Evil, the Devil, afterlife, death, life, balls

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HoWiE
HoWiE

Plymouth,, Devon, United Kingdom



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Well, I'm back - it only took 5 years to get over my writer's block! Now 44, older, wiser and currently studying a teaching degree having left the Armed Forces 3 years ago. The writing is slow g.. more..

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