“There is nothing quite like watching young kids play soccer. It must be the same around the world.”
My three weeks off this Christmas were active. Well, the kids were active; me, less so. While they were outside kicking the football, I was lying on my mum’s porch reading a great book called Little Princes. It’s about a backpacker who volunteers at a Nepalese orphanage, starts reuniting kids taken by traffickers with their parents and is so moved by the experience, ends up opening his own orphanage.
From a dusty backyard in Nepal he writes: “There is nothing quite like watching young kids play soccer. It must be the same around the world – a scrum forms around the ball, it pops out, hammered off somebody’s toe with a grunt, the scrum swivels their collective heads around like a family of periscopes, spots the ball, and flies toward it en masse, as if by gravitational pull.” And it is exactly like that, all around the world.
Football was one of the first games our kids played. First they got those really big, soft soccer balls in their Christmas stockings and the game was on – across the lounge room floor, up the passage, over the couch. Then the kids got bigger and that soft ball really packed a punch when it landed on the kitchen table next to my cup of coffee. That’s when the game moved outside.
It got faster, stronger and higher. So high, the ball flew over the fence into the neighbours’ yard half a dozen times a day.
The ball got smaller and harder. So hard, it smashed one of the front windows, flattened my struggling potted lemon tree and broke a glass I’d stupidly left nearby.
But because I grew up with my parents always telling me to “go outside and play”, I didn’t want them to stop. I wanted my kids to love sport, for all it teaches them and all the health benefits it brings. So I marched them off to the local football club and signed them up.
These days, raising my children in a big city, in a sometimes frighteningly digital world, a healthy dose of sport sometimes plays second fiddle. I just hope those first squishy footballs have sparked a love of sport that will last a lifetime.