Brief encounters of the football kind

Brief encounters of the football kind

What’s the record for the briefest sporting appearance of all time?

I’d like to stake my own claim.

After a 28 year pause, two weeks ago I rebooted my football career. It didn’t go well.

To that point, my record had been largely undistinguished. I joined Lordswood Tyro League team with Thatcherism in full throat and Sir Richard Branson piloting the first hot-air balloon across the Atlantic.

Lordswood was the third best team in the area behind the Liverpool-Man U sized rivalry of the mighty Brendon and City Rangers. But we were good enough to turn them over occasionally. I joined as an acrobatic wannabe keeper but there was absolutely no chance of getting a game there. Because we had Jamie Wiseman and Jamie was undoubtedly the best shotstopper in the league.

So, mostly, I played left-back because that’s where we were short. Well actually I mostly played substitute, getting about 5 minutes a week in the hope I didn’t do any damage. But I do boast a trophy in my palmarès.

At the summer 6-a-side competition I formed part of the triumphant Lordswood B-team that shocked the South Coast and lifted the Cup. Although I didn’t play in the Final.

Bill, our Assistant Manager, looked after us B-teamers. As the rain lashed down for the decisive match, I stood beside Bill whilst he prowled the touchline, more nervous than any of us kids.

“I’ll try to get you on in a minute,” offered Bill as time wound down and we found ourselves one goal to the good.

“No that’s OK,” I replied, “They’re doing well and I don’t want to mess it up.”

So that was that. Even I knew putting me on was a risk.

Eventually, much to everyone’s undoubted relief, we moved house and I hung up my boots, seemingly for good.

And that’s how it stayed until late June 2015 when a chum suggested joining up with a friendly kickabout near home and I surprised even myself by imagining that to be a good idea.

I bought new shorts and shoes and showed up as agreed. In a masterstroke of timing, my debut took place as the mercury grazed 30 degrees. I’ll spare you the gory details but I was terrible. Lacking in energy, bike fit but not football fit, out of practice and utterly talentless, I spent 60 minutes on the right fringe trying not to hinder my polite team mates too greatly. My entire body ached mercilessly for the full week that followed.

It couldn’t get any worse right? Wrong. And here comes my claim for the shortest ever sporting appearance.

Feeling much more energised on a cooler evening, this week I paid my subs and strode straight onto the sandy artificial surface in my bright orange bib. This would be better. Today I’d go home feeling like I could keep up. Like I could teach the young uns a thing or two. The Lionel Messi that got away from the talent scouts.

And then a tall, athletic-looking twentysomething passed me the ball. I knocked it straight back and collapsed directly to the ground, clutching the front of my leg in agony. Game over. A strained quad precipitating the ultimate one-and-done after a single kick. In the fecking warm-up. Way to go, granddad.

Still, it really can only get better next week, can’t it? Can’t it…?

RESEARCH QUESTION: What “highlights” can you share from your own sporting careers?

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