Quite deliberately I’ve never pushed my son into supporting any sports team that pulls at my affections.
As always, I prefer him to find his own way. He may come around to an interest in competitive games at some point. But, if he does, he can develop his own illogical tribal preferences.
Having said that there is an undeniable charm in the potential of him having some shared interests as his daddy.
So it was pleasing when he recently expressed a desire to watch a football match on the television alongside me. The delight was only slightly diluted by the transparency of his actions being a ploy to get out of going to bed.
The game was Manchester United v Arsenal in the FA Cup and he asked me who I wanted to win. When I said Man Utd he concurred that he wanted them to win as well. That was nice.
Watching the match was an unusual experience. His mind wandered often. At one point he argued with me that there were actually three teams playing in the game.
At another point he asked me if Spurs were playing too. When I replied no he said, ‘That’s because they’re off playing rugby tonight.’
As I said, unusual.
But I suppose you have to start somewhere.
So when he came home from school this week and asked me to play football with him I was happy to comply.
The game was fun and the fact that he insisted that it was in the rules that he was allowed to tackle me with a mop was only a minor irritant.
Then he asked me to watch while he kicked the ball as hard as he could. He shot the ball firmly with his right foot. Then he did it again.
I was impressed.
Infused by the spirit of progress I tried to pass on some of my wisdom.
‘You know buddy, really good footballers are able to kick with both feet.’
He looked thoughtful for a moment, then he asked me to pass him the ball.
He made a clumsy, ungainly attempt at a kick but missed the ball.
Then he tried it again….and fell over.
He tried it one more time, and fell over again, this time landing with a thump which looked and sounded painful.
As he rose I could see the tears coming into his eyes but I was confused about how his ability to kick the ball had deserted him so suddenly.
‘What are you doing buddy?’
‘It’s your fault daddy!’ he snapped back angrily. ‘You said good players kick with both feet.’
And then I realised.
‘Yes buddy, but I didn’t mean at the same time….’