Thursday, February 25, 2010

Memory Lane: How I got to kick the ball

This will be the first in a series of posts in which I recall experiences that helped to shape my outlook.

I think it was at the age of 12 that I developed a hostility to the principle of competition. The context was not economics or politics but sport -- to be precise, football (as I grew up in England, this means soccer). I very much wanted to play football -- or rather, not so much to play football as simply to run around after the ball with the other boys and kick it now and then. Unfortunately I couldn't run fast -- I had a tendency to asthma -- so I hardly ever got the chance to kick the ball, and I felt it was very unfair of the faster boys not to give me more of a chance to kick it.

In the formal games, we all lined up and the team leaders picked those they wanted. I was always one of the last to be selected. True, I wasn't the only one in this position. There were a number of others who were not wanted, but unlike me these others did not seem to mind not being wanted. They didn't even try to run after the ball, but chatted among themselves by the side of the field. They put on superior airs and regarded (or pretended to regard) football as a stupid waste of time.

There were also informal football games during break (recess), but the players did not allow me to take part. One day I defied their prohibition, ran after the ball, and managed to kick it two or three times. This annoyed them, especially as I did not attach myself to either team but just kicked the ball in any direction. Their patience quickly ran out and I was forcibly pushed out of the game. In the course of the struggle my glasses fell off and got broken. I started to cry.

The teacher on duty noticed me crying and came over. He was a decent sort and seemed very concerned. He did not quite understand what had happened and asked me to explain. Instead, I tried to explain, quite truthfully, that there was no need for him to be so concerned. The fact that I was crying did not mean that I was as upset as all that; sometimes you can be much more upset when you are not crying. I was a bit disoriented, but mainly I felt happy that I had kicked the ball.

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