For five years, I had one footballing son. One weekend morning and an evening were spent each week on touchline duty. Then, a couple of years ago, no.2 son joined the club. Twice at the weekend and at least twice during the week. Something had to give.
I had already called a halt to my own football playing, as the Monday night 5-a-side games had given me a broken nose, fractured wrist, sprained ankle and pulled groin muscle in relatively quick succession. So there was no capacity available there.
What did happen, occurred organically. Something else just slipped out of my life, creating just enough space for my boys’ football to crowd in. I stopped following professional football.
I gained fresh air: instead of time in front of the TV, I was outside. I didn’t just swap an indoor inactive pursuit for an outdoor inactive pursuit. Because around football practice and matches, I have fitted running and lots of kick-abouts with whichever son isn’t playing or practising.
And there’s a social life. Lineker, Hansen and boring, boring, self-satisfied Lawro can live without me. Obsessed Dad, Marine Dad, Christian Dad, Injustice Dad, Earnest Dad, Twitchy Dad, Marathon Dad and many other Mums and Dads provide better insight, or at least no worse appreciation of the game and its participants than their TV counterparts.
My team no longer sells its best players to stave off bankruptcy or sells itself to inscrutable owners. We see our boys build team spirit from seasons together and get pleasure from their teammates’ performances, not just their own.
Coaches and managers change, but only at year-end, not mid-season after a cup defeat, and always with a handshake and a chance for words of gratitude for their efforts. Their post-match explanations are no more reliable than those of the managers on the box, but it’s not out of cynicism, just dedication to their team.
Even if the boys teams won’t always, it’s been a win-win transition for me. What possible downside could there be of taking my eye off the professional game?
Well none, until now and the realisation hits me that such is my detachment I didn’t notice that Mrs TL had scheduled no.1 son’s birthday party for the same hour of the same afternoon as the FA Cup Final.