‘Hear ye, hear ye. The great international distraction is finally back and with it all the drama, action and a total lack of social distancing that the world has always wanted. It’s brilliant, it’s beautiful and it’s on TV again, giving mortals hope again that a world beyond Netflix binging exists.’
‘If you think that’s great, maybe you’ll like this or this or this or this,’ echoed a voice at the back of his mind, an area that he never even believed he had. How could he have the back of his mind when it technically never even exists. But since it clearly did, it should be without a back because it would be on a 4-D plane with everything happening simultaneously.
The man felt a little shocked but at the same time was pleased that he had finally managed to understand the ending of Interstellar. However, that feeling was quickly drowned out by a warning of violence with the thought immediately wiped out as a thunderous slap echoed on the earth, causing cyclones in India according to a local WhatsApp group. That brought an end to a deep slumber as the man held his face and checked his Instagram, wondering who slapped him.
That question would be answered seconds later as a shadowy figure approached him. It was tall, well built and clearly wearing something for which the modern colloquial escaped the man but he knew it had something to do with some sport. The shadow did nothing however but wait, so the man slowly stood up to his full 5’10” frame, also known as the “I’m 6’ foot” on Tinder, but the shadow still did nothing. It was as if it was waiting for something so the man walked towards the door as he heard the newspaper man walking down his path.
The door swung open and immediately, the man was greeted by a ‘Hear ye, hear ye. The great international distraction is finally back and with it all the drama, action and a total lack of social distancing that the world has always wanted.’ “Oh shut up, you wan…,” something clicked and suddenly he caught the newspaper being flung at his face and turned in one sweet move, and screamed at the shadow, “You’re a full-kit wan*er.” There was finally movement from the corner and a smile formed upon its face. It walked up to the man, snatched the newspaper and glanced through it before throwing it back.
The man stood bemused and a little worried at the man dressed completely in a football kit on a Friday morning and that too in one without any sponsors. The only thing visible was a logo of some team he couldn’t recognise and for some reason it made the man shivered as he wondered if he should be more than a little scared. They stood together for what seemed like an eternity, before the shadow opened its mouth and said, “So, you’re ready to go?” “Go where and why and with whom?” “With me obviously and to the past,” it replies. “Did he not explain it already or am I too early? Or do I have to do that?”
The duo waits on the writer who offers no explanation before the shadow sighs and continues, “Well, since he won’t tell you, let me. I’m the Ghost of the Premiership’s past and you are the winner of a raffle that will see you visited by three versions of me. I’m one and the other two will be along shortly.” “A raffle? I never took part in a raffle. How on earth would you even win a raffle without taking part in it?’ asks the man. “That’s the part that baffles you? Well, it was organised by the leader of the free world and the winner gets visited by three ghosts. Kinda creepy if you ask me, I mean who’d want their piracy invaded by someone you can barely see.”
The man looks a little bemused and scared but is curious, so he asks “Leader of the free world you say? Who’s that, Donald Trump? Boris Johnson? Narendra Modi?” “Oh, good god no, it is Mark Zuckerberg, of-course. But enough dillydallying, we need to get going,” Past says. “But...but I don’t watch football,” the man replies.
“Of course, you do, you silly little idiot! Everyone does and that t-shirt you’re wearing proves it as much. It is a rather rare hipster special.” “What’s that?” “Well, it essentially changes into the trend of that week/day/hour/minute/second so right now it’s a cross between Kai Havertz being the next Kaka, the Bundesliga and the magnificence of the K League. But that’s beside the point, so off we go.”
Smoke fills the air and suddenly both figures disappear into thin air, as the door slams shut leaving the room smelling of smoke and beer. Seconds later, the house starts shaking and the duo are back with the man looking a little out of place wearing a slogan that says Dean Henderson for England on a kit that is otherwise filled with Twitter threads. Past looks more or less the same and the silence is eventually broken as the man screams, “What the hell was that?”
“Which part? The part where the health minister threw players under the bus? Or the part where footballers in England were used as guinea pigs with them shutting down the league, six days after everyone else? Or where a member of parliament went on a jolly ride across the country breaking lockdown rules? Or where the same country that plans to restart football played a part in creating not one but two hotspots for a pandemic? Or the part where pubs weren’t charged for their Sky Sports account during these troubled times? Or where the Premier League’s Project Restart somehow resisted anyone’s attempts to sabotage it? Or that Twitter image, where Kendall Jenner’s shadow held no placard showing that she photoshopped the image?”
“The last one,” quietly replied the man. “Yeah, that pissed me off as well,” replied Past, “but what about the others, did they have no impact whatsoever on you? I mean seriously, this is the greatest league in the most popular sport on the planet and they’re treating their players like utter garbage. You saw what happened to Troy Deeney, how he was abused and now he’s mysteriously back in training. Then there’s the fact that the same country that failed to properly deal with a pandemic is now looking to restart football despite it’s numbers still being very volatile.”
The man simply stares at Past, not exactly sure what to say but says, “I think you mean most popular, not greatest.” And with that Past disappears leaving nothing but a psychosomatic hole in the man’s heart. He strides about trying to comprehend what just happened but is given no time as a noise announces the arrival of another ghost.
The man turned and stood in front of him was another weird-looking man, except this one, had a nondescript hair-colour that kept changing almost every second. From blue, to red, to black, to bleached and then back to blue with this happening almost instantaneously in front of the man. Tattoos over his arms, a phone in his hand and, just like Past, dressed in a full kit. “Yo blud, fam, ahh wrong year. Give me one second. There we go, much better. I am the Ghost of the Premier League’s Present and my kingdom rules upon the greatest league on the planet.”
The man simply stares at Present, not exactly sure what to say but again something within him gives him the courage to say, “I think you mean most popular, not greatest.” Present stares back, “Semantics, my dear fellow, semantics or as we say marketing. Either way, getting to the point, since the writer is running out of space and words, we’re going to have cut it down. The present will be your present which is the last three odd months.”
“You mean we’re going to be breaking lockdown? If that’s the case then let me change,” the man replies and walks away. “What lockdown? You mean the one where footballers spent time playing football? Or where Britain let there be a 250,000 big festival of horse racing? Or where 100 people all decided to spend their lockdown on the same part of the smallest possible beach in the world? That lockdown? Oh, who cares about that, and besides your wonderful country has brought down the barriers.”
“Well, even then, one must be careful,” the man says walking out in a Hazmat suit with a mask on his face and a belt full of sanitizer bottles. “Don’t think you need that” “But since I’m already dressed, I take it we’re leaving now?” “To go where? I did say present did I not, so it means that we’re already in it,” replies Present. “You see, your world is stuck in the middle of possibly the worst pandemic that they’ve ever witnessed in recent memory, and for some reason, England thinks it makes sense to resume football.
“Because for some absurd reason, the Premier League and England believe that they can do what Germany have done and do it in a much better way. I mean, one country has one of the highest recovery rates from the virus and the other is a country that let a 250,000 horse festival play out for three days despite being in the middle of a pandemic. But maybe, that’s a part of their plan? Maybe if it falls flat on their face, England can say that Germany did it first, so we followed.
“But Liverpool needs a title, so let’s get the Premier League back, right? And for some reason, the world has little opposition because the Premier League is back in all it’s wonderful glory and the world is in love. Because football does save everything does it not? It’s the elixir of life apparently but in a pandemic, it gives the world hope. So, what if it’s only back because of purely capitalistic means? So, what, if they’re putting players, their families and the coaching staff alongside their families at risk? The world needs football, so the world gets their football. After all, in a global pandemic that is what matters, doesn’t it?
“And Project Hope for the Best, has done it’s part rather brilliantly. It has been forced because of a risk that the broadcasters will pull the plug on TV money and cause life-threatening issues for the league and everything around it. To put it simply, if the top deck goes down so does the rest of the ship, in this particular case. Which is why a case can be made for restarting action but there had to be another way to do this, right? Even if clubs lose money, it has to be better than losing people to a pandemic right? Are you even listening?” Present screams at the man who has gone into a daze while staring at his phone.
“Sorry about that, I was staring at a hilarious video of a cat sitting on a laptop stopping it’s owner from doing any work whatsoever. It’s too cute, here Present check it out. Present?” The man stares up but Present is nowhere to be seen and the room is quiet again with a lingering smell of beer and smoke. Yet, that doesn’t seem to bother the man who continues staring at his phone, scrolling through Twitter while contemplating breaking lockdown for a pizza. Not even the sudden appearance of another man dressed in a full-kit breaks that but the deeper Scottie Pippen-esque voice certainly breaks the man's trance.
“Hello good sir, I’m the Ghost of Football’s future and you are..” “Yeah, yeah, I already know who you are but I figured you’d be the Ghost of the Premier League’s future, and not football’s? I mean that’s what the other two said they were but they were talking absolute nonsense. Just imagine, football won’t ever put it’s players, the people who work for them or even the teams at risk just to earn some money, I mean come on. Hello, Future, do you speak?” the man replies at a Future who just stands in the corner stunned and a little weirded out.
“They never tell me anything, I mean come on. We had a meeting before we arrived, it was supposed to be the ghost of the past, present and future of football. Not that it matters in the end, but at least inform me. Anyways, um look. The way things stand is like this. I’m Future, so I know everything and at the same time nothing about the past. I know what’s going to happen but not what has happened, which is where you come in. You’ve been told what has already happened but what will happen is upto you. You’ve got a choice to….” Future is interrupted by a knocking door and the man rushes to open it.
‘Hear ye, hear ye,” screamed the announcer but he was rudely interrupted by the man, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before. Blah blah blah,” and the announcer walked away slowly with his head held down. The man stares at Future, “You were saying?” “So, yeah, you have a choice…” Future continues but is interrupted as the man screams at the announcer “You said it’s free to watch, in a pub where alcohol is being served?”
“Yes,” replies the announcer. “Why do you want to…” asks Future but the man has already charged off screaming ‘free football, free beer at a pub near you’. It’s catchy, ‘free football free beer at a pub near you’ and soon enough the street is singing it. Future alongside Past and Present turn to each other, shrug their shoulders and ask the announcer “Pub’s that way?”
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi