| [Kick it, Son!]
- THFT's focus on all things
related to Serbian football
photographic tour through footballing New Belgrade
A career in the life of Dion Brown
|Dion tried to lift his head, but something, it seemed, was weighing him down.
It flowed through him unreservedly now, assaulting every sense.
lowered his head once more, letting it rest gently against the soft,
damp grass. He tried to focus his mind on something – anything – but
the tormenting, oppressive agony would not allow him to do so.
the awareness of a presence at his side brought him back to a state
vaguely approaching lucidity. Gradually, what was previously a hazy,
indistinct spectre materialised into a short, coiffured individual
resplendent in a tight-fitting beige blazer and grey slacks that
appeared to have been ironed with an intensity and resolve very rarely
seen after the nineteen-sixties. The overall impression exuded by this
person was one of, er, of… In his confused state, Dion could only
come up with the word “lavender.” Realisation dawned, and Dion
recognised the lavendous entity to be, in fact, the team’s physio,
Although he styled himself as an On-site
Sporting Medical Executive, Toni had never attended any kind of medical
faculty – or any kind of faculty, for that matter. He had obtained his
current position as the head physio at Cumberland Athletic purely by
virtue of being the illicit lover of Athletic’s chairman, Frankie
Hurst. Seemingly, it was of scant import that Facetious Frankie already
employed his wife of five years, the former page-three model
Staycee-Leylaniee Paige, as a member of the club’s board.
sponge, lovey?” whispered Toni. It was unclear why, but Dion found
himself inwardly repeating a mantra consisting of just one word:
Mercifully, the pain-induced miasma relinquished
its hold on Dion just enough for him to raise his arm, place it on
Toni’s sloping shoulder and, not overly lightly, shove the little man
backwards. Since Toni had been crouching on his haunches, it was not a
long journey to the turf, and he ended up tumbling inexorably,
heels-over-head in a comical tangle of legs, medical equipment, and
errant strands of mullet-bouffant.
Dion was vaguely aware of a
sound that might or might not have been a cheer from a place that might
or might not have been the South Stand, but which seemed in his current
state to have originated somewhere in the region of two-to-three dozen
kilometres away. This was the part of the ground that played host to
the group of fans that newspapers often referred to as “Carpathian's
most loyal and vocal supporters.” In reality, they were merely the
Dion surrendered once more to the pulsating agony, the
source of which he now placed somewhere in the vicinity of his left
Meanwhile, Toni was busy muttering away to whoever was
bothered to listen - to wit, no-one. Dion saw the physio pick himself
up, dust down his blazer, and crouch down once more.
“Silly spoon,” whispered Toni.
at first, didn’t reply. Eventually, after Toni’s persistent attempts to
communicate, Dion managed to shift his mind’s focus away from the
blinding pain just enough to choke out some syllables.
“Stretcher. Off. Now.”
stood up. He turned towards the Athletic dugout, bit his lip, inclined
his head downwards, and furiously rolled his forearms one over another
in the industry-standard physio-to-manager code that implied “mmm, no,
sorry. I’ve done my best, but this player cannot continue. Please
remove him from the field of play immediately.”
As if to hammer home the point, Toni spoke into a small, skin-tone microphone attached to his collar.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve done my best. This player cannot continue. Please remove him from the field of play immediately.”
flurry of activity ensued. Orders were barked. Lips were pursed. Some
people sprinted up and down the touchline. Eventually, a teenager as
spotty and grease-headed as he was buck-toothed and bandy-legged
emerged from the crowd at the side of the pitch, frantically discarding
a red-and-black tracksuit top he had been sporting. He jumped up and
down a few times. Ran on the spot for a while. Puffed out his cheeks.
Farted nervously. This was “wee” Barry Partridge. He was seventeen, and
this was to be his début for Cumberland Athletic.
Back on the
pitch, the stretcher-bearers had arrived. They were fat and appeared to
be extremely unhealthy. “Sedentary” was a word that sprang to mind as
Dion found himself speculating about their lifestyles.
them looked apprehensively at the prone figure of Dion, wondering just
how he and his mate were going to lift this muscular, ninety-kilo
colossus onto a stretcher. The other – all business – nodded towards
Toni, awaiting instructions.
A dismissive click of the tongue
and a pout indicated that Toni was not willing to engage such plebeian
non-entities in conversation.
The poor and unfortunately
luminously-clad stretcher-bearers drew in some slow, deep breaths and
bent down to try and relocate Dion’s vast bulk onto the apparatus.
After a few moments that were mostly comprised of embarrassingly
ineffective attempts at moving the horizontally-oriented footballer
more than a couple of inches, Dion took matters into his own hands. He
sprang to his feet, instantly cursing himself for doing so as a fresh
bout of searing agony brought vomit to his mouth and forced him to lean
on the fatter of the two medics. Within seconds, the rotund porter
began to puff rather heavily, struggling desperately under the
not-insignificant weight of his charge.
In a rare gesture of
compassion for his fellow human beings, Dion began to hop towards the
edge of the pitch, where Barry Partridge was eagerly standing by. At
this stage, the young lad was furiously pounding the ground, performing
jumping jack after jumping jack, spitting incessantly, and rotating his
hips vigorously in a mad, uncontrollable fit of dread that was more
resembling of an epileptic fit than the warm-up routine of a
professional footballer. A kind word from the fourth official was not
enough to halt the progress of Barry’s terror-prompted callisthenics.
of the Athletic fans were clapping enthusiastically at what they
probably saw as a hard-man act on the part of Dion; the brave warrior,
refusing attention and battling to reach the changing room on his own
two feet. Quel héros! they thought (though possibly not in those exact
words). Bully beef in action.
Dion acknowledged their applause
with an upraised fist, gritted teeth, and an “I’ll pull through,
somehow” glance towards the big screen at the opposite end of the
stadium. In TV studios throughout the nation, analysts composed flowing
tributes, whilst editors worked unthinkingly on video montages and
slow-motion captures of Dion's gnashing, gurning visage.
Brown was a legend here. The Athletic fans loved nothing more than his
bustling, committed, and frequently violent style of play. Today, he’d
had what would go down in the rags as an “absolute shocker” of a game.
Every pass had travelled, with unerring precision, directly to the feet
of an opposing player. Every lumped “diagonal” had picked out members
of the crowd rather than members of his own team. Every towering aerial
collision ended with a flick-on into twenty yards of space occupied
only by players wearing the wrong colour jersey.
Yet still the
watching masses roared at his hopping, stumbling frame as he inched his
way off the pitch. They marvelled infinitely more at his labours to
overcome his achingly-limited talent than they fumed at the very
presence in their team of said achingly-limited talent. At every step,
Toni buzzed about him self-importantly, trying in vain to create an
illusion of usefulness.
As the odd little group of men made
their way towards the side-line, they were approached by a man best
described as tall, blond, tanned, and as handsomely dimpled as a
crinkle-cut potato chip. His name was Ricardo Cio. Born in Swansea to
Italian parents, his nickname was, as a result, the Italian Scallion.
Cio was the one who had poleaxed Dion with a knee-high, studs-up
challenge that left the purists in the stadium nodding happily and
lending their voices to balanced, enlightened exclamations such as
“’ard but fair,” or “now that’s a propah challenge, innit.”
this act of violence, Cio received nothing more than a ticking off from
the old-Etonian referee, despite his reputation as something of a
destroyer. Over the years, Cio had married his sly ruthlessness with a
flashy, golden-boy appearance, thus creating a deceptively violent
modus operandi that had accounted for countless trodden toes, numerous
jawbone fractures, and several ruptured testicles.
smiled so disarmingly that, despite himself, Dion was almost unable to
refrain from beaming back at him. Dion noticed that Toni was shifting
from foot-to-foot. The physio ran his fingers nervously through his
in-no-way tackily styled neo-mullet. He flashed a bleached smile at
Little Benny, thought Dion, before immediately hating himself for resorting to the “dressing-room” approach to tolerance.
Cio began to speak. “So sorry, my brother. It was not my – “
Italian’s tongue lolled and his cheekbones crunched as Dion’s forehead
reached the end of its parabola directly in the centre of Cio’s
previously grinning face. Blond hair cascaded downwards, drawing a
sunkissed curtain on Ricardo’s exotic features – in a manner that Dion
considered unfairly glamorous given the circumstances – as he crumpled
to the earth, instantly unconscious.
Athletic fans in the South Stand roared in vicarious delight, the full
force of their unfettered envy pinning Cio to the ground.
Dion cursed himself for adding a severe headache to his current
physical predicament. Externally, he raised his arms aloft and,
temporarily forgetting the numb throb in his leg, strode merrily off
the field, absorbing the adulation and revulsion in equal measure.
He didn’t glance even fleetingly at the luckless referee, who apologetically cast a red card in his direction.
Another solid day at the office, Dion thought to himself as he entered the tunnel.
yards away, a dejected Barry Partridge hung his head, slunk back to the
substitutes’ bench and slipped disconsolately back into the reassuring
embrace of his polyester tracksuit top.
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