Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

My Life in Short Pants Has Been a (Foot)ball

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

My Life in Short Pants Has Been a (Foot)ball

Article excerpt

As you may have noticed, soccer's World Cup is currently being played in Brazil. How much you have noticed depends on whether you think this is a great celebration of the beautiful game or a festival of men in shorts.

Put me in the former category. That said, my love affair with the football played mostly with the feet - as opposed to the football where feet are primarily the means of transportation for the arms - took awhile to develop.

Growing up in Australia as a kid, I didn't play organized soccer, although the game is popular Down Under and the Socceroos are currently playing in Brazil. They deserve to be there for having the best nickname.

Instead, I was a rugby player, which may explain my somewhat beaten-up appearance. I grew up wanting to play for the Wallabies, a small kangaroo that loaned its name to the national rugby team. Not to be too technical, but Australians play two kinds of rugby and the other national team is, yes, the Kangaroos. The women's national field hockey team is the Hockeyroos, just in case you were wondering.

From of all this, it can be said that Aussies love sports and leaping animals both, which is unfair to wombats, who are adorable in their own way. Perhaps a darts team is named after them. Darts players and wombats both come out at night, although the wombats aren't seen as much in pubs.

My life in short pants did not take off until I went to England and got a job on the sports desk of The Times of London as a sub- editor, I often wrote headlines on soccer stories, especially those about English teams losing to disrespectful foreigners who didn't have the decency to recognize that the English had invented the game.

As well as learning about soccer at work, I got to play a few games myself. The Times, a venerable newspaper traditionally known as the Thunderer, had an office team. Naturally, it was called the Thunderballs, but we brought neither thunder nor lightning to the pitch. We were like the English weather - damp and cold and not conducive to excitement.

I remember one match in Regent's Park in London, next to the zoo, against members of the Irish Press Association, who managed to avenge every national insult in one afternoon. …

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