Football for the fun of it: jam hot on Tooting Bec common (or the Wandsworth bicycle kick)

Today, as many of you will know, was a hot one. I don’t know exactly how hot – one of those digital displays on an advert said 26 degrees this afternoon at about 3 – but it was, to borrow a phrase, JAM HOT.

Anxious about being couped up in our small heat-trapping flat on a day like this we headed out. On the way we said hello to our new neighbours, then hit the pavement. We headed North, to Tooting Bec common.

There were about a dozen football matches being played, all kids’ games. We walked past a couple then found a nice corner spot where Stan could get a bit of shade and where I could watch the action.  We chose really well. Turned out we were seeing Wandsworth Town U15A visiting Tooting U15, and it was a cracker.  Within a few minutes Wandsworth’s numer 11 had scored twice, one a pretty impressive strike from what seemed to be the edge of the area, the next a neat finish after being put clean through (he could run, that number 11).  He wasn’t the team’s best player though.

We all like to pretend to be scouts in these situations but as the game went on the realisation grew that I was watching something pretty special.  Tooting looked pretty hopeless but Wandsworth had some serious players.  Their number 10, a skinny black boy with a nice forward lean as he ran and a deft touch in possession, patrolling the midfield but spending a lot of time up front, too, was an absolute joy to watch.  His control of the game was phenomenal: he tried things (returned a clearance with a big dipping volley from miles out that dropped just wide), he just had “it”.  I was starting to think ‘yeah, this kid could be a player’ when something amazing happened.

A corner to Wandsworth. The ball’s in the air.  Not sure how, I wasn’t paying that much attention (bad clearance?), but there it was and for some reason my eyes start to focus.

The ball’s in the air still.

Sloooow motion, like Clint Dempsey’s chip.

A player tries a scissor kick.

Not a falling volley.

A legit whiplash scissor kick.

The ball cracks into the net.

“Fucking hell,” I say, out loud.

I know who scored it: that number 10.  The hairs are standing up on the back of my head typing this.

Shit, I don’t think I’ve seen a better goal.  How many U15 players could do that? Vision, execution. Wow.

The game’s getting out of  control.  Number 10 is substituted before half time, perhaps sparing the opposition from further humiliation.

At half time we get up to go, and I notice one of the kids by the goal making sure the net’s properly taped up.  That man again.  I wheel Stanley over and we stop on the edge of the six yard box.  “That you with the bicycle kick?” “Yep.” “Fair play, that was a bit special.” We walk back to Hade and head home. I still can’t believe he did it.  I bet he can’t either.

Other interesting things: number 10 wasn’t the only player subbed before half-time. One of the Tooting lads was brought off early on.  His Dad was sitting near us and was quite reasonably furious.  Your team’s playing against some superstars from a bigger town and you take a player off before half time?  T o compound the lunacy, at half-time I heard a different dad and the team manager talking about their defence playing too high a defensive line.  “I didn’t tell them to play that high” said the manager.   Folks, you’re playing much, much better players.  Don’t moan about a high defensive line.  Don’t humiliate 15 year olds by substituting them, either.  People….

The sublime and the ridiculous.  I don’t know who the Wandsworth number 10 was, but I feel like telling Fulham about him.  The chances of them not being aware of the better U15 players within a couple of miles are surely next to nothing, but you never know.  That goal.  I bet he’s still replaying it in his mind now.  I would be.  I am.

So anyway, tomorrow we get to see Fulham play QPR and it’s going to be great, but man, I saw the best football on Tooting Bec common.

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