The Year 9 boys PE class is revolting.
Jordan – Football vs Football
“Not frigg’n wog ball again.” says Eric and spits on the ground next to him.
Nervous laughter breaks the tension amongst the boys gathered at the side of the school hall as we watch the coach walk out of the teachers office towards us, his precious round ball in his hand.
Eric was the biggest ‘wog boy’ in school; loud and proud of his Greek ancestry; he never missed an A League match. If he was over soccer, then the rest of us were totally sick of it. We just wanted to play football – Aussie Rules – real football – not this round ball crap.
Mr Brown the PE teacher, was an English immigrant, and even though he had lived here for over a decade, he still thought of himself as belonging to the mother country. Which was an attitude that didn’t win him friends here in the western suburbs where you could count the Anglo Saxons on one hand – with fingers to spare.
Even more obnoxious was his insistence that we call him ‘Coach’. He seemed to be under some sort of delusion that he was training an English Premier League side instead of a bunch of pretty ordinary year 9’s. Every week it was soccer and we hated every minute.
To add to the injustice some of the boys were pretty good football players. David was the local under-16 team captain; and Mark was the areas leading under-16 goal kicker. We’d asked if we could play Aussie Rules instead. Initially Mr Brown had said we would later in the year. But it never happened. I’d tried reasoning with him; he just said to stop asking or he’d give me detention. I hadn’t and he had. And we’re still playing soccer.
But no more. I had a plan.
“Right boys. Two groups. David, Mark. You’re captains – choose teams.” said Mr Brown when he reached us.
I catch David’s eye and give him the slightest of nods. He nods back and gives Luke a nudge with his elbow. While David and Mark take turns in choosing the members of their teams, Luke discretely circles behind Mr Brown and takes a football from the equipment crate. He throws it over Mr Brown’s head to Mark, who catches it and runs off on to the oval, the rest of the class in hot pursuit.
“COME BACK HERE!” bellows Mr Brown. There is a piecing shrill as he blows his whistle. No one takes any notice.
He starts to follow the boys out on to the oval when I step in front of him blocking his way. He wasn’t that tall and I was one of the taller boys so we stare at each other eye to eye. This was going to be … ‘interesting’.
We had a history. He insisted on obedience; whereas I wasn’t taking his shit.
He liked to dish out exercises as punishments, but as a karate champion with more trophies than I could count, anything he could give me was a ‘light rest day’ compared to my usual training.
Once he told me to do twenty push ups.
“Like this?” I said and did twenty standard push ups.
“Or like this?” and did twenty more clapping push ups.
“Or like this?” then did another twenty with one arm, then another twenty with the other arm.
The rest of the class cheered me on. He wasn’t impressed.
Another time I answered him back and he told me to run a lap of the oval.
“Just the once?” I said.
His face went bright red with rage and he told me to do laps for the rest of the class; which suited me fine. Just to be annoying, every lap when I reached his position, I did twenty push ups. His look of hate should have killed me on the spot, but I couldn’t care less what he thought. Respect has to be earned and he didn’t have mine.
“Get out of my way.” he says, nostrils flaring.
“We need to talk.” I reply, standing my ground as I mentally recite my mantra.
Calm, focus, remain expressionless, do not react. I will succeed.
He tries to dodge passed me but I’m too quick for him. He stops and squints his eyes, jaw clenched, while he considers his options. He can’t touch me – it would cost him his job. And he knew I wasn’t stupid enough to make the first move. While he was much older and heavier, I was a trained fighter and pure muscle; and he wasn’t either. It would be a fair fight – and he knew it.
“Get to the Principal’s Office. Now.” he says, stabbing an index finger at me.
“You’ll have to take me.” I say calmly. “And then you can explain how you won’t let us play football.” Hearing the sound of the game behind me, I add “And how the boys are playing just fine without you.”
“You do play football.” he says, clenching his fists.
I just stare back at him expressionless, as he fumes with powerless rage.
He changes tactics.
“Real football has skill and finesse. Not like that aerial ping pong you boys play.” he says trying to reason with me.
I have him now. By trying to argue with me, he has implicitly acknowledged the merit of my case. All that debating practice with Bec is paying off.
“Okay, that’s a fair point.” Like, bullshit it is. “But this isn’t the Premier League, it’s a PE class. How about we mix things up a bit and do something different for a change.”
“And who put you charge? I’m the coach. You do what I say.” has says stabbing his finger at me again.
“You think anybody cares what you say? Go on. Blow your whistle. See if they come.”
He can’t let my challenge pass. Putting the whistle to his lips, he blows three loud blasts. “GET OVER HERE! RIGHT NOW!”
From the his expression I don’t need to turn around to know that no one has paid the slightest attention.
“You can’t lead those who won’t follow. If you want them back, you will have to be reasonable. We’ve played your football. Now we want play ours.”
He just stares at me with hate in his eyes.
“So. Are you going to be reasonable or are we going to stand here all lesson?”
His options are limited. I’m just talking to him, it’s not my fault he can’t get passed me. The boys will say they didn’t hear him. He can give us all detention, but then he would have to explain why, which would only raise a lot more questions. And if we were all going to flagrantly disobey his instructions, every class would become a nightmare for him.
A strong person would stand by their principle’s. A weak person would take the line of least resistance and give in.
He stares at me while he thinks, lips pressed together, his face tense. Finally he takes a deep breath. “Mixing it up could be good training.” he says.
He gives in.
“We won’t be needing that any more then.” I say holding my hand out for the soccer ball. He reluctantly gives it to me and I throw it over his head basketball style. It lands in the equipment crate.
“Now let’s go play football.” I say turning to run on to the oval.
All people, places and events depicted are real, just not in this universe.
© Paul Shipley