Over the weekend Master A was playing in a football match friendly, a club-organised fixture between the Under 9s and Under 8s.
The weather was glorious, a jumpers for goalposts kind of a day. All was well with the world – until the Under 8s started to out-play their “seniors”.
By half time, the younger boys were up 3-0. Flying high, in the second half, they went out believing they could complete the upset. They played like Leicester – full of passion, self-belief and swagger.
It paid off. When the whistle blew the Under 8s had secured a 6-3 victory. The boys were elated, chest pumping, high fiving – and a few roly-polys thrown into the mix for good measure.
The mood was jubilant. So when the Under 9s coach asked our gaffer to play on for a further 20 minutes “the weather being so nice and all”, everyone agreed.
What started out as an inter-club friendly descended into a calculated hack ’em to death grudge match in the “third half”.
Obviously miffed at being shown up by the younger squad, the older boys started to take down their opponents with cynical fouls: studs-up challenges, crafty ankle clips and sneaky elbows.
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Shamefully this bullying form of play was egged on by their parents, screaming from the sidelines to “Take ’em on”, “Show ’em what you’re made of”. The Under 9s’ coach, who was also refereeing the game, stood by and watched.
There is a difference between encouraging your child to succeed and wanting them to win at all costs. These parents were a disgrace, an embarrassment to themselves, and more importantly, their children.
The sad thing is what happened here is not an isolated incident. Increasingly, I see “gobby” parents at events and sporting fixtures that Master A attends bellowing red-faced at their children.
Despite the mob’s baying, the Under 9s, with their dirty tricks and intimidatory tactics, didn’t manage to claw any goals back against their younger opponents. The Under 8s held their nerve.
Victory is sweet, made even sweeter when you know you played by the rules.