Stuart Roy Clarke

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To win the match. Any match.

My posts will soon be transferring to where I have a little bit of a love affair going (what with Campo stylish football takes – I have a stable mate).


England’s capitulation in the World Cup prompted me to memoir. Of the few real notable memorable stand-out ‘international’-styled matches I have been involved with – actually played in – there has been in each case a central theme. An ask which took little asking. To win the game.

One such match, in America, whilst working on a kids summer camp, had us teachers thrown together in a minibus and taken to a clearing in the Kittatinny Mountains. Where we were to meet another set of teachers thrown together in another minibus from another camp. These highland woods and clearings were slightly spooky – Klu Klux Klan had operated hereabouts only 60 years before – within memory.

But this was an encounter to play football, as most encounters should at least consider.

The English contingent (probably on both sides) took to organising the rest of the squad claiming a football superiority (certainly in terms of pedigree if not actual form) saying who should play where and what the line-up might be. A concensus prevailed and we eyed our opponents in warm-up (stretching calves) just as they eyed us.

This was a game we so wanted to win. With nothing much at stake. Against unknown opposition. With none but ourselves watching. Not beamed anywhere on tv. To no great homecoming (the chef back at the summer camp might just ask nonchalantly ‘Did You Win?’ as if performance might have some reflection on his cooking).

The referee may or may not have been impartial – the driver from their minibus.

The clock was poised and a few buckets of water lined up on the touchline – it was midday in summertime. We won the toss and elected to play ‘in skins’.

The game was underway and after a few minutes of this and that and mistimed tackles and misplaced players and things not going exactly right (probably on either side) several captains chipped in their ideas of a rejig – sort of repairs as you go along and make your way. To goal. We were bent  on scoring. On winning. And if conceding – as we did – coming back stronger still. And we did. To take a lead.

Then there was half time and some calculations over the extent of injuries – who exactly could play on and could they play on in a limited role maybe, let’ see. The rock-hard terrain grazes were splashed with ointment…spare socks applied as tourniquets.

The game powered on through the heat of midday, the ball catapulted into the trees giving a momentary cool for he who recovered it.

Total engagement. Total absorption. Commitment. Such fun in a way. This was a game we simply HAD to win.

We shook hands at the end of the game. The minibuses parting at the fork in the road.