When I was at school (late 80s-early 90s) there weren’t many people with my name. The only ones I could think of existed on TV and they were either in cartoons or were dogs. I mention this because a) I thought about it and got all nostalgic and b) the title of today’s blog is reminiscent of an old kid’s show title (who can remember Jamie and the Magic Torch?)
So then, the story of Max and his Magic Daps*.
There once was a
young boy young man man called Max. Max loved football very much, but he really wasn’t very good. One day he met a wise man known simply as JK. JK was the (self-appointed) leader of a group of mighty warriors called the Spartans. Named after their similarly chiseled, six-pack toting historical counterparts, the Sport Wales Spartans were a fearsome footballing bunch who terrorised the Gol Centre‘s five-a-side work league every Monday night, crushing all teams that stood in their path (and by all I mean a few). Despite Max playing the beautiful game like a blindfolded Bambi on ice, he was invited to join the team.
The line up of the mighty Spartans team included many legends. Firstly, Twohey, a goalkeeper likened to a cat, due mainly to his lightning reflexes and partly his habit of occasionally coughing up hairballs. Then there was Simon. A man of unbending self-belief. A belief that the ball should do all the work. He may not have run around like Speedy Gonzales , but he didn’t need to. The ball was always where he wanted it – on his foot or in the goal.
Next up was Ski. His name was a mystery, but some say it was due to his ability to glide past defences as if he were a world champion skier and the opponents flagpoles stuck helplessly in the snow. And then we come to Ben. An enigma. A force of nature. The kind of player who covers more ground than a carpet fitter, but still has finesse in abundance.
Next is Tom. Those who wonder what Fergie’s infamous halftime hairdryer was like need only play on the same team as Tom. Commitment is a word too weak to describe the Midlander’s passion, and that passion was often felt bellowing in your face when your desire was brought into question. And last there was JK. The man who took young Max and brought him into the Spartan family. JK’s feet were something to behold. With the speed of Michael Flatley and the grace of Ginger Rogers, they bemused and confused the opposition into surrender.
This group of men would take to the plastic crumb coated pitches on a Monday night and weave their soccer magic. Goals would go flying in. Sometimes actually into the opponents’ goal. And everyone would chip in with goals. Everyone would tot up their tallies after each bruising victory. All but Max that is. Max’s headless chicken routine, while enthusiastic, only served to contribute fitfully and rarely towards the goal tally.
So, after another disappointing night in front of goal, Max’s wife Clare suggested that some actual football boots, rather than tattered trainers, might help. Following a search that took the pair through the myriad malls and markets of old Cardiff town, some glittering golden boots were spied in a shop window. Handing over the last shilling from their savings, the boots were bought and carried gleefully home.
The next match day arrived and Max pulled on his new boots. As he warmed up and took some practice shots, confidence flowed through him. His usual wayward marksmanship was seemingly much improved and his turning circle had gone from oil tanker to rally car. And then in the game itself, the unthinkable happened – Max scored a goal. He openly wept after that game, such was his joy.
And that wasn’t the end. Max went on to score TWO in the next game, taking the season’s tally to three. Wow. The crowds cheered raucously, and his teammates carried him from the pitch.
I know what you’re thinking. Magic Daps. Really? Well it’s true. In a way. You probably didn’t realise, but the Max in this story is me! And the magic was simply confidence. The new boots made me believe I could do more. I am never going to be a world beater, but it’s true that, with a good team around you and a little bit of self-belief, anyone can do more than they thought possible.
*For the unaware among you, ‘daps’ is what some call trainers round these parts.