Matil­das fever runs hot on sub­ur­ban side­lines

She’s bur­bling now, drunk on the ex­cite­ment of a score­less Un­der 12’s soc­cer match

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

Sun­day: 6.45am The ratch­et­ing plas­ti­con-plas­tic grind be­gins with a whim­per and escalates quickly to a shriek­ing din as the ea­ger dawn pa­troller hoists the noisy bed­room roller blinds en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, hand over hand, as though they were the stiffly yield­ing main­sail on a large schooner.

The room rolls for a minute and we come 180 de­grees about — the dark shad­owy bed­room soli­tude sub­sid­ing sharply as day­light streams in.

6.46am My part­ner of 30 years re­treats to sub­ject the small per­son in the next room to a sim­i­lar wellinten­tioned bat­tery and I try not to mourn the loss of an­other week­end sleep-in.

For five pre­cious min­utes the shower of­fers a steamy place to hide un­til she arrives in her pink py­ja­mas and re­leases my jeal­ously guarded steam stock­pile into the cold morn­ing out­side with a sleepy push of the bath­room door.

“Mum, where is my (insert word) uni­form/socks/shin pads/boots?” she asks, her voice croaky with sleep while rub­bing what’s left of my cher­ished bath­room steam into tired eyes.

“Well, if you put your wash­ing pile away last week, it should be in your bot­tom drawer …” I hear my­self say, talk­ing mum-speak.

7.05am Dressed, we start hunt­ing for miss­ing soc­cer boots. Caked in mud and cov­ered in dry grass clip­pings, they are fi­nally dis­cov­ered dis­carded in the garage.

7.10am Slice of toast in hand, wa­ter bot­tle filled, we head out to the car that is now idling in the drive­way. Dad, as al­ways, is the first out the door for the short drive to a lo­cal soc­cer field, ex­cited that fi­nally we have a child who is keen about team sport.

7.15am “Is the Blue­tooth on dad?” Miss 11 asks. “I need to put my pump-up mu­sic on …”

Soon Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady is blar­ing as we con­duct a last

minute check of what­sapp to make triply sure we’re headed to the right field at the right time and haven’t missed a coach­ing video posted ear­lier that may have re­quired our ur­gent at­ten­tion.

7.55am My daugh­ter’s Un­der 12 soc­cer team com­plete their warmup — well, the op­po­si­tion does while our girls cud­dle, at­tempt cart­wheels, fix each other’s hair, sing and plan next week’s sleep­overs.

8am The teenage ref­eree’s whis­tle calls us to or­der and par­ents who have been com­plain­ing about the chilly con­di­tions and the shock of 8am soc­cer games, or dis­cussing the fruit ros­ter, win­ter week­end es­capes, pre­ferred high schools, other par­ent’s hang­overs — fall briefly si­lent.

It’s then that woman in the $15 Kmart wet weather boots, mum jeans, puffer vest and in­con­gru­ous New York Yankees base­ball cap — be­gins her un­in­vited Sun­day morn­ing com­men­tary.

“Run like the wind Holly run,” she ex­claims ur­gently.

“To the ball Molly,” she en­thuses.

“Mark your play­ers girls! MARK THEM!” she shouts, barely draw­ing breath, words and names tum­bling out of her as she shouts en­cour­age­ment to ev­ery player on our team, nam­ing them all in a fre­netic breath­less blather.

For a mo­ment she has cast her­self as old-styled run­ner who must re­state the coach’s in­struc­tions to the team.

“Ref, sub …” coach shouts — and when the teenage ref doesn’t hear him — the woman ur­gently re­in­forces his call: “REF! SUB!!” she shouts, echo­ing him, more loudly.

“Sabina! SABINA! YOU’RE OFF! SIENNA, YOU’RE ON! GO SIENNA GO!!!” she in­structs, with a sur­pris­ing air of au­thor­ity.

The Matil­das’ World Cup cam­paign, she con­fides to co-par­ents, has re­newed her pas­sion for a game she has come to late — just a few years ago. I silently will her to shut up NOW.

It’s in vain.

The team man­ager gives the woman a pa­tient smile and points out the lo­cal re­gional soc­cer as­so­ci­a­tion is talk­ing about hold­ing an­other si­lent sup­port­ers day: “You may have to stay home that day …” she says with a wink.

The woman qui­etens, the feed­back mo­men­tar­ily ab­sorbed, as the whis­tle sounds and the team breaks for half­time or­anges and par­ents gather to lis­ten to the coach’s coun­sel.

It’s nil-all as the girls re­turn to the field to a cho­rus of cheers and en­cour­age­ment from spec­ta­tors on both sides.

This mere whiff of en­cour­age­ment is too much for the team’s No.1 card-car­ry­ing sup­porter — the ebul­lient woman who clearly sees her­self as a fu­ture un­der­study to SBS’s Lucy Zelic.

She’s pac­ing the side­line anx­iously when the team man­ager calls: “Please take a step back spec­ta­tors. The line­man can’t see the line.”

She steps back as one of the tini­est mem­bers of the team takes a shot at goal: “Go Cath Go!!” she shouts. “You’re a cham­pion Cath! A mighty cham­pion! Big­ger in­side than out! LIKE THE TARDIS!!!” What on earth is she say­ing? She’s bur­bling now, drunk on the ex­cite­ment of a score­less Un­der 12s soc­cer match.

She is also al­most sense­lessly shrill: “Kick it out Maddie, kick it out!”, “Tackle Av, tackle,” “To the ball Olivia, to the ball!”, “Hold the line mids!” “TAKE A SHOT BEC!!!!”...... “DANCE, DUCK AND DIVE GIRLS!!!!!”

For the next 25 min­utes the woman shouts her­self silly un­til, fi­nally ex­hausted, she falls si­lent as the op­po­si­tion scores a tie-break­ing goal in the dy­ing mo­ments giv­ing them the game, 1-0.

My daugh­ter soon ma­te­ri­alises at my side: “Gee Mum, you were quiet to­day … Do you feel all right?” she asks, crush­ing a stud into my $15 plas­tic boots as she reaches up to pull the Yankees cap from my head.

The Matil­das cel­e­brate a Sam Kerr goal at the World Cup — an­other step on a sport­ing quest that is inspiring young girls and their par­ents at sub­ur­ban fields across Aus­tralia on Sun­day morn­ings. Pic­ture: Getty

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.