A Suárez whose boot is bet­ter than his bite

CityPress - - Voices - Paddy Harper

Satur­day. The Croc and I are hang­ing around wait­ing. Again. This time it’s not for the Com­man­der in Chief or His Majesty King Good­will Zwelithini.

This time, we’re lurk­ing on the side of Du­misani Makhaye Drive in Dur­ban wait­ing for a mup­pet who wan­dered off with our ac­cred­i­ta­tion for the Un­der-19 foot­ball tour­na­ment.

Need­less to say, we’re a lit­tle an­gry. We’ve just driven from Bergville to pick up our tags and are run­ning late.

Fac­tor in the fact that it’s my first match re­port in my new ca­reer as a footie writer and the swear­ing that Jim Henson’s vile spawn re­ceives on the road­side turns out to be pretty bru­tal.

Tags re­trieved and we’re back on the move.

We make it to Princess Ma­gogo Sta­dium in KwaMashu in time for the 3pm kick­off. Only just. The KZN XI vs Boca Ju­niors academy side. Scelo Qwabe’s team is de­cent, but Boca are too good for them. Put one in from a short cor­ner on 30 min­utes. Soak up the pres­sure in the sec­ond half and put in the fin­isher.

Boca have this young­ster called Leonardo Suárez.

Suárez ter­rorises the KZN de­fend­ers un­til he’s subbed just be­fore 90 min­utes. Puts in the sec­ond goal while he’s at it. Man­ages not to bite any­body or hurl racist in­sults.

This Suárez is gonna be some­thing spe­cial.

I’m scrib­bling notes ev­ery time some­body kicks a ball. Or makes a tackle. There’s no big screen, so I’m bat­tling to keep time.

The sun in my eyes doesn’t help. I’m squint­ing be­tween note­book, team sheet and lap­top while try­ing to watch the game.

By the time 90 and four ex­tra are up, I’m fin­ished. My head is spin­ning. This is hard work. Far harder than writ­ing pol­i­tics. Or muck-rak­ing. There’s no speech, no recorder, no TV feed, no slow-mo. I hit send. We’re done. I don’t know how I feel. Part of me is stoked that I’ve made my de­but and man­aged not to make too much of an ass of my­self. I hope.

And there’s some­thing cool about be­ing an old dog and learn­ing new tricks.

Another part of me is sad that foot­ball has be­come work. I’ve al­ways man­aged to keep the two apart.

Then again, if things carry on like this, maybe I’ll end up ly­ing around on the beach and smok­ing herb and writ­ing about it.

One lives in hope.

YOUNG BLOOD Boca Ju­niors’ Leonardo Suárez

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