Last ever football match by Rosalind Adam
Do you ever dream that you're a famous footballer? I do and in my dream I’m scoring the winning goal for England and there’s this picture of me on the front page of the newspaper with the headline,
'Amit Solanki scores for England'.
How cool would that be? I know it's not for real. I mean, kids like me don't get famous, but even so I keep practising, you know, shooting, heading, dribbling, the way we've been taught at Woodhill Football Club. I'm really skinny, like a spoon with arms my Mum says, but I'm well fit and I can't wait for this year's Football Competition. Our team stands a real good chance of getting into the finals of the under-11s. That's what Bhav says and he should know. He's our coach. There's no way we'll ever WIN the Competition, not with Mill Lane playing. They win everything. They’re our mega enemies. Bhav says that one day we're going to beat them but I reckon he's wrong. Those kids are bigger than us and tougher, much tougher.
Anyway, I don't want to talk about them. I hate them, especially one of them. Now look, no one else knows about this and that's how it's got to stay, right? You see, there's this kid who plays for Mill Lane. He's their goalie. I don't know his name. I call him Sweatbag because that's how he smells. He's always having a go at me, ever since I bashed into him in the goal mouth. He banged his head, his mates laughed and now he hates me. Unfair or what! He waits for me after school. He's not there every day and he's never in the same place twice, so I have to keep looking and… well… like I said, I don't want to talk about it.
It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm on my way home from school. I'm just turning into our street when, wallop! I'm thumped on the back. Why didn't I think to look behind me? How stupid was that? I squeeze my eyes shut but there's no stink of sweat, just a pong of after-shave. I spin round. Panic over. It's only Bhav.
“You're never gonna believe what I just heard,” he says.
“What's that then?” I ask. “Are City being promoted to the Premier League?” I start to laugh.
“This is serious!” he snaps. “I've just heard some real bad news. The Council are closing Woodhill Park.”
Closing Woodhill Park!?
Closing our football club!?
The quiver of a laugh is sitting on my face. It's kind of frozen there, but it doesn't mean anything anymore, nothing does. I can hear a dog barking from down the street. There's a car alarm going off somewhere. I can't move. I can't speak. I can't believe it. They can’t close Woodhill Football Club!
“Sorry, Amit,” says Bhav. “But it's the truth. They're going to sell Woodhill Park to developers. They're going to build houses on our football pitch.”
“They… but… they can't!”
“They own the land, man. They can do what they like.”
“What about our football club?”
“There'll be no more football club,” he says. “No more football competition either.” He looks even more miserable than the time Mill Lane beat us 12-nil.
“So do we still do training tonight?” I ask.
“Too true we do training. We can't let them see they can break us just like that. We're gonna go down fighting, right?”
“Yeah, right,” I say but I don't feel like fighting. I watch him walk away, his big black college bag bouncing against his back. I've got this wobbly feeling in the back of my throat, like as if there's a big match coming up and I've not been picked for the team.
I walk down the street until I'm opposite the entrance to Woodhill Park. The gates are metal bars, painted green with spikes on top. I stare through the bars. Woodhill Park doesn't have any trees. It doesn't have any flowers either. It's not that sort of a park. It's more of a reccy where you play football, cricket, whatever. OK, so it's not pretty and sometimes dogs get in and poop on the ground or older kids drive their motorbikes round and round at night, but there's loads of grass. There are six football pitches marked out, not that we ever use them all, except when it's the football competition. My Dad reckons there's been a football competition on Woodhill Park every year for over 50 years. Imagine it! 50 years! At the far end are the changing rooms. It's really just an old wooden hut where we leave our stuff while we play, but it's got Woodhill Football Club painted over the door and it's ours. In my mind I try to see a load of houses there but I can't and it makes my stomach feel as sick as if I'd missed a really easy goal.
[End of Chapter 1 of 9]