I’m stood at the edge the pitch terrified that any moment my little sister is going to be the one getting shunted into the ambulance that waits behind the goal line.
She’d say it’s a question of technique, if you and your opponent tackle well then you’re going to be fine. People get hurt when technique is bad. It’s why you’re not allowed to initiate contact from behind. Such behaviour would of course get you a red card.
It’s my sister who is on point. The person at the front of the formation of the team determined to win back that ball.
The guy with the ball is built like a hulk. My sister is 5ft3.
What ensues is terrifying. At a full sprint she throws herself into him. He staggers and stays upright. My sister bounces, rolls as if a stunt man on a James Bond film and gets back to her feet. Seconds later she’s at him again and he’s forced into getting rid of that ball rather than making a run for goal.
Sometimes they just go down. My sister neither gloats nor concerns herself with their ego. She’s already at the other end of the pitch with her mind set on the goals.
Of course, not all tackling is perfect. I’ve watched my sister charging forward, ball in hand, and get launched at from behind by a much taller chap. They both go down. The referee blows his whistle and the two of them stagger to their feet.
After checking this chap is alright, and assuring him that she’s fine, my little sister is shaking his hand with both of hers and consoling him on his disqualifying red card.
In fact, she shakes everyone’s hand, or gives them a hug, after every match. As does the rest of the team. This is a tribe of people who value each other.
It attracts all sorts of people. Some of the participants haven’t had a history of sporting prowess, something I can relate to, but here, amongst these people they’re wearing a team kit and despite being cherry faced and exhausted, they’re grinning.
They’re proud of themselves, proud of each other and proud of their sport.
A sport that I’ve been known to roll my eyes at.
Rolling your eyes at acceptance, and inclusive teamwork is ridiculous. Rolling your eyes at people helping each other become fitter and develop confidence within a safe, encouraging environment is ridiculous. Rolling your eyes just because these people chose their sport from a book that they loved and a story they are passionate about is ridiculous.
When I was younger I would tell my sister where it was and wasn’t acceptable to play pretend. She would look at me terribly confused and wonder why it was that one situation wasn’t suitable for playing Famous Five or something similar, but another place and time was acceptable. My mind would be racing wondering who would see, who would think us stupid or childish.
I never ran, because I would look stupid running. I never wanted to go to the gym, because I wouldn’t know what I was doing. I fear team sport, because I’ll just let someone down. Rolling my eyes is a defensive strike. I’m saying, your sport is silly, but what I’m feeling is a terrible fear because I can’t let my guard down like that.
I don’t know how.
But my little sister does. She’s at point, she’s got the whole team behind her and she knows it. She knows her job isn’t to get the ball herself, her job is to push, to fight and trust that there are two men poised behind her are ready to catch.
She hurtles towards a man twice her size and there’s no fear holding her back. She might be only 5ft3, but 5ft3 is all of enough when you know who you are.
I’m proud of her.