The real-life tales of a football writer
Manchester La Fianna are flying. We’ve won nine on the bounce and risen to the top of the 24-team Barcelona International Football League with eight games to play.
We’re still in the cup and a post-season tour encompassing a match at third division Ibiza’s stadium awaits. In those nine victories we’ve scored 54 goals and conceded four. We’re also top of the fair play league for our division.
So why did I leave training so dispirited on Tuesday? Partly because I’m finding myself spending more and more time dealing with the less exciting aspects of running a team.
In our 4-0 victory last Saturday, I substituted striker 'Dinho' after 70 minutes. Dinho is from Togo and has attracted attention from a semi-professional club here. Playing for them would be a different matter, however, as his papers are not entirely in order.
Dinho turned out in the Senegalese first division last season, dreams of having a career in the game and says he is 20 years old. He paid his way to Europe through an ‘agent’ who had lined up a move to Beira Mar (Mario Jardel, Eusebio and Blackpool’s Stephen McPhee played for them) in the Portuguese second division.
He trained there but was not taken on and ended up in Barcelona where he had friends. Unable to find them, he slept rough for four days. After a phone call to Gabon, he finally tracked his down friends, found work, heard about our team and came training.
I knew within five minutes that he could play. He's quick, strong and almost impossible to knock off the ball. He’s got a ferocious shot, even if the ball sometimes ends up in the Costa Brava. Dinho’s started up front pretty much ever since. His punctuality isn’t great and he is prone to lose his temper, but he’s still an asset to the team.
Yet it’s clear why he’s not made it as a professional. We indulge him, better teams wouldn’t. Or we did until last Saturday when he refused to shake hands with the substitute and headed straight to the changing room.
The other players were rightly furious. I was going to pull him up but was talked out of it. So I had a quiet word at training and thankfully, he reacted positively and apologised. He’ll get another chance.
After that game, one of the defeated Mallorca players said: “You’ve got a great team, but good luck in controlling your superstars.” I told him that our main problems don’t come from the best players, but players who come training (we have open sessions) and think they are far better than they are.
A few have asked me in recent weeks why they're not in the team. They say they've had interest from much bigger teams. “I’m sure you’re sleeping with Jennifer Lopez and have just invented a cure for gavarn (a Manchester word for the chaffing a fat person gets between their upper thigh and private parts),” I should say, aware that they're talking horse. But I listen and use up time I’d rather be spending with the team.
We play the Celtic Cross, probably our biggest rivals, on Saturday. Their manager watched us last week. If I were him, I’d be telling my players to wind Dinho up.
But now I’ve told Dinho and he’s assured me he’s going to be as calm as the false Nicholas Cage who managed to blag an invite to the private box of Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon for last week’s Roma game.
In the meantime, I’ll concentrate on The Cross who have got players like Liam Austin who played in Australia’s A League only three years ago and Mike Connelly, who performed in the Irish League.
They're well organised and recently went on a run of 11 straight wins. Prior to that, their only defeat this season had come with a 2-1 reverse against us on the opening day of the season. The roar when goalkeeper Raul, who was with Real Zaragoza until he was 18, saved a last minute Cross penalty still makes me smile.
As will the other surprise we’ve got lined up for Saturday…
Guess how that turned out... Didn't have the Cross a surprise as well... hmm anyway.. 2-1 the Cross.
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