The lost football is the world’s saddest sight
A poignant Twitter account captures the bitter pang of losing a cherished ball, writes Jim White
Once it was at the heart of the game. Now it is lying useless and split in a puddle
In among the presidential rantings, the echochamber trumpeting, the minor celebrity look-at-me preening, amid the swearing, the raving and the endless time-sucking inanity, occasionally it is possible to stumble over something that makes social media worthwhile.
So it was the other day, when someone posted on my Twitter timeline a strikingly poignant picture. It was of a football, lying deflated on the roof of a bus shelter.
It was impossible to look at the snap without wondering how the ball ended up there, marooned and ignored, out of sight except for those on the top deck of the passing No30. Was it a game of street keepy-up that went awry? Was it the result of an overconfident practice set-piece kick, using the shelter as a goal? Or was it the work of a bully, grabbing the ball off its proud owner and chucking it beyond reach? And if so, was the owner still crying, bereft at his loss? The glory of the post was only enhanced when it became clear that the picture had been forwarded from a Twitter account that specialises in sharing photos of forgotten footballs.
Using the simple handle @Lostfootballs, every day it dispatches into the ether pictures of former playthings now discarded, forsaken, dumped. Looking at their gallery of snaps – of balls abandoned in drains, lost at sea, stuck up trees – it is hard not to agree with the site’s assertion that this is “the saddest sight in the world”.
Because the fact is anyone who has ever kicked a football has also lost one. And with it felt the peculiar pang of separation. Every lost ball has a back story, albeit rarely quite as embroidered as Tom Hanks in the film Castaway, bawling in misery when his one and only desert-island companion, his basketball chum Wilson, is washed away. Every lost ball has a biography of broken connection.
Once it was at the centre of a bustling social interaction. Once it was at the heart of the game. Once, it was the catalyst, unleashing collective delight. Now it is lying useless and split in a puddle. Or stuck in the undergrowth, the wrong side of a steel fence.
Or, in the case of one unexpected photographic contribution, wedged into the masonry of a civic monument in Barcelona. @Lostfootballs is the work of two Birmingham City fans called Matt and Adam. They act as a repository for pictures coming in from around the world, which they re-post, captioned with pop lyrics.
Thus, a picture from AFC Walcountians, an amateur club in Croydon, of three players wrestling with dense brambles in a vain attempt to be reunited with their match ball, is posted with words from David Bowie’s Heroes. Or a snap of half a dozen balls bobbling in the currents of the River Taff in Cardiff is sent out accompanied by the opening couplet from the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks.
Every picture tells a story. Not least one of Matt’s favourites. It is a snap of the roof of one of the stands at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s stadium, where, in the gutter, can be seen the last resting place of half a dozen balls – hoicked up there over the seasons, a decaying critique of hit-and-hope hoofball.
The appetite for such poignancy is apparently insatiable. Every day, Matt and Adam are inundated with new snaps, fresh evidence of forgotten hordes from around the world.
“Honour them,” Matt says of the lost legions of battle-scarred footballs. “Send in photos.”
Though his service of remembrance comes with a significant caveat, spelt out at the top of the page. “No rugby balls allowed.”
Dumped: The collection of photos at @Lostfootball tell forlorn stories of separation