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Balls

EVER since I was born, my father, an army officer, had consistently told me one story and it's about how when I was tucked into the crevices of my mother's womb, he'd hear the soft thump of feet against a solid surface whenever he'd press his ear against her belly and he was utterly convinced, irrevocably so, that I would be one of the best footballers that ever lived. As I grew older, and as my once blue nursery-turned-room acquired a deeper shade of pink every passing year, I realised it wasn't the thud of my feet as I raced past defenders, ball dribbling, flick-flacking, it was actually, my feet against the contours of a wooden floor, hard soles donned, standing on the edges of my toes, banging to its own beat.

Yes, I wanted to be a ballet dancer.

And armed with the confidence that my guidance counsellor at the YMCA had given me, thirteen years worth of suppressed dance moves and fluttering my limbs en l'air, I walked up to my dad, heart drumming to the beat of Stayin' Alive, which I hummed to myself as I led up to the confrontation. There were times when I was so down in the dumps, my head crammed into the hardness of my pillow, tears rolling down like pouring rain against my eyelids, ruining my masca…I mean, hope, then I would plug in my iPod and listen to the soothing, gentle, yet surprisingly, womanly voice of Barry Gibb float into my years, using his lullabies to cradle me to sleep.

So, I was armed and ready with my most prized possessions and I walked up to him. He was in his army uniform, about to go to work, and I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Daddy?”

“What is it, son? I have to go to work. One of my army officer's wives has died.” His voice had always been heavy with the sternness that seemed to encompass all army personnel and it had always made me run into my mother's closet and wear, I mean, hide under my mother's clothes to protect myself from his wrath. But today, I needed to be strong. The fact that someone had died gave me more hope, hope that his heart would be softer at another person's demise, his mind occupied with more important matters. But unfortunately, he wasn't finished.

“I have to give him a honourable discharge. Apparently, he started crying as soon as he got the news. I will not tolerate such wussiness in my regiment!”

Balls.

But I was determined, nonetheless, to pledge forward with what I had in mind. Realising that I need more in my arsenal, and consequently, with the image of myself in a tutu in my mind, I breathed in, imagined the same tutu-wearing figure in the midst of a semi-cartwheel, looked down at the ground, and spoke: “Dad, there is something I have to tell you and please, do not interrupt me. You have always thought that I would one day be a great football player. And being scared of you as I am, I have always let you run your orders over me, afraid of the consequences that I would face if I were to defy you. But now, no more. Daddy dearest, I don't like football. Firstly, I suck. Secondly, I can't concentrate. The men, in their tight shirts and short shorts, are quite distracting…er, moving on. I don't want to be someone I'm not anymore, daddy, and if what I am is a disappointment, then I will be the one disappointed in you. I want to be a ballet dancer.”

He stared at me for a moment and as we stared at each other for longer, I saw that his eyes had started to water and my heart leapt with joy. At last, the father and son moment I had waited for for so long, waited patiently with my head crammed into earphones that silently blasted Careless Whisper (“Guilty feet got no rhythm!”), had come.

Then he lifted his hand and smacked me right across the face.

Later on, when I was running, weeping, skipping across town to my guidance counsellor's house, having been shoved out by my house quite happily, I was a little less confused. Apparently, he hadn't initially wanted to slap me right across the face but had been pinching his own arm real hard to distract himself from the 'utter disgrace I had brought upon myself and the family.' He told me I wasn't manly enough for this family. However, he, thankfully, let me pack the stuff that were important to me (my rare Bee Gees five-member vinyl collection, my purple-laced pink tutu, the 'Dancing Queen' single CD signed by the cast of Mamma Mia, the Indian costume replica from the Village People and most importantly, the full DVD Set with special commentary from the actors and writers of Will & Grace consisting of all eight seasons.) When I demanded he tell me why I was being emancipated, he explained to me, as he continued to hit my behind with his palm (which, for some inexplicable reason, started to feel good), that any sport that doesn't have balls in them, is not a sport for men. And defeated by the sheer weight of his argument, I left.

But I followed my dream, and I do not regret it for a second. I had the courage to follow what felt true in my heart, and I do not look back and think of what could've been, because this was the only way for it to be. I applied to the Bangladesh Board of Fruitcakes and Tap Dancers and made myself a proud member. And that's all I need.

Later, they did rescinded my membership on the grounds that I had no talent, but that is NOT the point. I maybe be a busboy, but I am a proud busboy, one who greatly-

Oh, who am I kidding? Balls.

By S.N. Rasul


An Idiot's Guide To Football

ARE you between the ages of 16 - 25? Do you have no interest in football, and can't understand why a bunch of guys kicking a ball around is labelled as the "greatest show on earth"? Do people ask you everywhere you go, which team are you supporting this World Cup? Do you feel left out when your mates talk about football and you quietly sit in a corner sipping a can of diet coke? Do you just want to blend in and show people that you know FOOTBALL? Have you watched the sixth season of Desperate Housewives? Do you want these questions to stop? Well if you have said, "yes" to at least three of these questions, then you have picked up the right magazine my friend. This is because after you have finished reading this article, you are going to know more about football than David Beckham.

Shooting - Well even someone as ignorant as you know that, in order to win a football game a team must score goals. So it is needless to say you are going to see A LOT of shooting this time in the World Cup and there are numerous names given to different types of shots. Whenever you see a player shooting the ball from outside the penalty box (now don't tell me you don't know what a penalty box is) to score a goal, such spectacular shots are known as "thunderbolts", "screamers", "bullets", etc. You can even make up names too, for example "missiles", "rockets", and get creative. Sometimes you will see players go one on one with the goal keepers and the player just shoves his foot underneath the ball, and it magically drifts over the keeper's head and falls gracefully into the back of the net. Suck shots are known as "chip shots". Other notable names are "the side footer", where the player uses the side of his foot to shoot. "The curler", where the player shoots the ball in such a manner that is curls into the goalpost.

Formations - There are eleven players on each team. There are usually four defenders, these guys stop the other team from scoring goals. The defenders are positioned just in front of the goal keeper. Similarly, there are usually four mid-fielders, they have the toughest jobs, as they have to attack and defend at the same time. They usually stay in front of the defenders. Most teams have two strikers in their starting eleven and these guys are the "hitmen" of the team. Their sole purpose of existence is to drive a ball into the back of the net (which means scoring goals... and lots of 'em). They are, well you guessed it, positioned in front of the mid-fielders. This is why they are also known as "front men".

Now that you know the basic formations, lets delve a little deeper into the subject. The sides of the football pitch are known as "Wings" or "flanks". In most football teams there are usually two players known as "wingers". They run back and forth down the right or left wing (depending on their positions) and whatever they contribute to the team, be it passes or shots, have to be from the wings. While watching a footy match with your mates, be sure to spot the wingers before anyone else. That way your friends will think you actually know football. The "playmaker" is the guys who calls all the shots and basically sets the attacking play. He doesn't have to be the captain of the team, but he is the guy who sets the attacking tone of his team. The playmaker has the license to change formations, playing styles' etc. Such players are usually the talismans of their respective teams.

Rules and regulations - Now please don't make me use up my precious word limit on things such as corners or throw-ins. If you don't know what they are then I would advice you to wrap yourself in a blanket, curl up in bed and don't come out until the World Cup ends on July 11. Anyways, in this paragraph I would be explaining the mote-complicated rules of the game. For football novices such as yourselves, it can be quite bewildering to identify a clear tackle. So let me give you a few pointers on how to recognise a clear tackle with pinpoint accuracy. Remember any sort of push, challenge, intervention, grapple, off the ball will (between players of opposing teams) be a tackle. Any sort of challenge from behind is also considered a tackle. Two footed sliding tackles usually deserve a yellow card, sometimes even red depending on the amount of damage inflicted upon the player. It is also forbidden for players to lift their legs up to a certain height when a player from the opposing team is only inches away. Such tackles are known as "high boots". Now lets head onto the most complicated and controversial rule in the history of football. The dreaded offside rule. Well if you are just getting to know the beautiful game of football, let me tell you not even the president of FIFA's organisation of referees can help you comprehend the monster that is the offside rule.

Congratulations, now that you have finished reading the end of this article, you are good enough to coach the entire English team. So go out there, watch the World Cup and show everyone you know more about football than John Terry knows about women.

By Alvi Ahmed


 

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