Ross of the Rovers: Confessions of a football mum

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The Independent Online

Yippee! The new football season has kicked off. Great. Brilliant. Stupendous. I can now get back to watching my eight-year-old son's football team. They are a very good team. Indeed, they would have won most of their matches last year, if they hadn't lost so many. Still, it's great being a soccer mum because, instead of a warm and cosy and scrumptious and well-deserved lie-in on Sunday mornings, I get to stand in the wind and rain and the hail in places like Wanstead and Whetstone and Walthamstow, places I never even knew existed. (And now that I do? Well, I can only ask: why? What is the point of Wanstead?) Still, it's nice to go, and cheer my son on. Although, when I say "cheer on", it's more the odd cry of "nice try" at random intervals, just to appear interested, and as if I have a clue what is going on, or even care about what is going on. I think I might be quite a rubbish soccer mum, actually. I will just check. I will ask my son. "Darling, am I a rubbish soccer mum?"

Yippee! The new football season has kicked off. Great. Brilliant. Stupendous. I can now get back to watching my eight-year-old son's football team. They are a very good team. Indeed, they would have won most of their matches last year, if they hadn't lost so many. Still, it's great being a soccer mum because, instead of a warm and cosy and scrumptious and well-deserved lie-in on Sunday mornings, I get to stand in the wind and rain and the hail in places like Wanstead and Whetstone and Walthamstow, places I never even knew existed. (And now that I do? Well, I can only ask: why? What is the point of Wanstead?) Still, it's nice to go, and cheer my son on. Although, when I say "cheer on", it's more the odd cry of "nice try" at random intervals, just to appear interested, and as if I have a clue what is going on, or even care about what is going on. I think I might be quite a rubbish soccer mum, actually. I will just check. I will ask my son. "Darling, am I a rubbish soccer mum?"

"Mum. You shouted 'good shot' when Tom got an own goal."

"Yes, but it was a good shot. Wasn't it?"

My partner, and father of our son - just thought I'd clear that up, before you mark me down as the promiscuous old scrubber I most certainly would be, if only I had more energy and could get up earlier - sighs wearily. My partner says that if, this season, I ask him to explain the offside rule again, he's going to put me out the cat-flap. And lock it. He means it, too. He is also very serious about football. He even manages our son's team.

You would think that, as the manager's consort, I would at least get some perks. A big Bovis house in the Home Counties, perhaps. With electronic gates and white shag-pile carpets and a Jacuzzi and ruched curtains and a utility room and a double garage and a Cherokee Jeep with the number plate: "Deb 1 Fab Chick". But, no, the only thing I get is an already poky hall now almost entirely clogged with size 4 footballs, and size 5 footballs, and shin-pads, and goalie gloves, and boots that are "pimples" and boots that are "studs" and other boots that are "studs" but aren't the same kind of "studs", in a way I don't properly understand. I don't understand much, actually. I may well be the world's worst soccer mum, now I think about it. And soccer spouse. I will just check. "Darling, am I the world's worst soccer spouse?"

"Yes."

So, there you have it. I mean, at the end of the day, you can't get clearer than that, can you? Still, it's very hurtful. I would remove all bedroom rights, if only he ever wanted any. At the end of the day. Or whenever, frankly.

I do try. Truly, I do. As I've said, I go to all my son's matches, and sometimes I almost remember to bring oranges. Oranges? Yes, these are fruits of two halves which, if halved again, become fruits of four quarters, which seem to go down jolly well at half-time. But the other mums? They are spectacular. Particularly the ones from Wanstead, actually. They shout: "Mark 'im, Brett!" And: "What d'ya fink you're doing, Brett?" And: "Ohh, that was well good, Brett!" Bloody hell, I said to my partner, they're all called Brett, at which point a mother bellowed: "Bleedin' hell, Hercules. Yer meant to be defendin', son!" That showed me, I guess. Although I'm not a snob. I would have called our son Brett, if only the name wasn't so common and horrid and nasty.

These mums care passionately about the result. As I do too, in my way, but perhaps not in the same way. These boys are still only 'ickle. I can't bear it when our team lose because, yes, they will all burst into tears. But, then, I can't bear it when they win, either, because it means the other team will burst into tears. It is, actually, not unusual for me to take the opposition's weeping goalie onto my knee, to give him a cuddle and a "there there" and: "I think you played really well. You almost made a save at one point!" Apparently, this not only makes me a totally hopeless soccer mum/spouse, but a sensationally embarrassing one, too.

Still, if you can believe it, it used to be worse. I used to have to play! Imagine it? Moi? This is when my son was very small, and I was required to spend endless hours in goal (ie, between two jumpers) in the park. Now, you'd think that the fact that, on average, I'd let in 70 goals per minute, would suggest that my mind was elsewhere, but no. Indeed, I don't think this properly sunk in until I said I would only be in goal if a) I was allowed to sit, perhaps on one of those little folding chairs fishermen use, and b) could read a book. At this point, I was put on the bench. Permanently. Which was great. A bench is even more comfortable than one of those little folding chairs fishermen use. I'm just not sporty. And have never been sporty. At school, I was always made such an outside, outside fielder in rounders that I was practically playing truant. I don't especially like watching sport, either, although I naturally make an exception for synchronised swimming (The caps! The smiles! The deep suspicion it should be renamed Designer Drowning!) and ice-dancing (but only in the secret hope someone takes a nasty tumble, which is always oddly satisfying).

But the boys! Let me tell you about this trip we took to Mauritius a couple of years back. Mauritius! Wow! And, yes, it was thrillingly Hello!. We had one of those whitewashed, thatched jobbies on a white-sanded beach, with a view of palm trees and the sparkling, unfeasibly blue sea. But what were the boys excited about? The fact they could get Sky Sport on the telly, which we don't get at home. (Something to do with entering into a Faustian pact with Rupert Murdoch.) More, they had to draw the curtains - get rid of that nasty view! - because the sun was getting in the way of the picture. I wouldn't have minded so much but, not being used to tip-top holidays, on the first night I ate a coconut shell full of what I thought was a welcoming, Mauritian snack, but turned out to be the room's pot-pourri. Consequently, I spent most of the week in bed with terrible tummy ache. The sound of the sea might have soothed me. Newcastle v Aston Villa did not.

Still, it doesn't matter that we don't get Sky. They get by. They do more than get by, even. At home, they watch Teletext. They watch Teletext! Honestly, that's what they do. It's team training all Saturday morning and then it's Teletext all Saturday afternoon. Boys, I will say, please, please, please can I watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on BBC2. "Go away," they will chorus. "We're watching Teletext." Something with Cheryl Ladd in on Channel 5? It's bound to be very good. "Go away. We're watching Teletext." So that's what they do, whooping with pleasure when Wrexham go one up and whooping with misery when they go one down. Wrexham? Don't ask. All I will say is that, as we live in north London, equidistant between Tottenham and Arsenal, this makes it especially tragic. Our son recently gave away his first ever Wrexham shirt to a little boy down the road who suddenly announced (for reasons of hero-worship, I suspect) he supported them, too. I told my son I was surprised. That, if only for sentimental reasons, I expected him to hang onto it. He said: "Mum. I've waited a long time to see another boy in a Wrexham shirt." See? See what a heart-breaking business this football business can be?

And Saturday nights? Match of the Day, of course. Plus the repeat on Sunday morning. Why catch it just the once, when you can catch it twice? And this even though it's not as good as it used to be. "Gary is not a patch on Des." Des! Des! Des! During Euro 2000, Des was such a feature in our house that I thought he'd actually moved in. Indeed, I even starting laying out little shell-shaped guest soaps and preparing him tasty, home-made meals and everything. "Des," I would call, "come and get it before your Fray Bentos pie gets cold". He never did come. I can't tell you how many Fray Bentos pies (and Pot Noodles) I had to chuck out during the tournament. Some people say Des is the ultimate pro, don't they? I just think he's rather bad mannered. I didn't even get a note afterwards, to thank me for having him. I'm not saying he can't ever come round again. Just that, if he does, I'm certainly not going to put myself out. He'll just have to take us as he finds us. And do his fair share of household chores. Sorry, Des, but you've had your chance. And you blew it.

Anyway, yippee for the football season. I have so much to look forward to, as you now know. And at least the cricket season is over, which means I can't upset the boys by asking things like: Who is winning? "No one is winning, mum. England are ahead." Doesn't that mean they're winning? "NO!"

However, I don't want you to think that I don't contribute anything to family life. I know one magic card trick that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Plus I am very good at making goblets out of Quality Street wrappers. Ask anyone.

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