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I am not a fan of Real Madrid or Gareth Bale [even though he was – at one time – days away from joining Nottingham Forest] however I recently saw a photo of his reaction having scored his first goal at the Bernabeu and I have to say it blew me away.
Good isn’t it.
Yes, I know a lot comes from the angle of the photographer, but to me, he literally looks like he’s flying.
In that single photo, you see the explosion of both relentless pressure and unstoppable exhilaration.
When I saw it, in a weird way, it reminded me of when I was a kid.
I know … I know … playing footie on the fields of Greythorn Drive park, using jumpers for goalposts and playing with/against some friends from the estate where every game ended something like 21-18 probably doesn’t come anywhere close to the feeling of being the World’s most expensive footballer, playing for one of the World’s most loved and watched teams in one of the most competitive leagues in the World – but as I’ve never have played professionally, I wouldn’t know.
What I do know is the feeling of playing was great but the feeling of scoring was incredible.
Yes, even as a kid in a no-league game.
That sensation might have only lasted a second, but you knew you had done something important, something no one could take away from you.
You stood taller. You ran a little bit faster. You had that little more confidence.
It let you go into the next game with a slightly different attitude.
On one hand, the belief you had – even if it was in your own mind – a slightly better reputation than the one you had at the last game. On the other, it was the fear you wouldn’t live up to it and you’d slide back down the pecking order.
The easiest – and most obvious – way to judge this was how long it was before one of the team captains picked you to join their side.
Being in the last 3 was terrible.
Being the last 1 was disastrous.
If you were one of the first 3 or 4 to be picked, you knew you were wanted … you had people who believed in you … you have some chops.
That was great. That made you feel good about yourself.
But if you were in the bottom 3 of choices, it was totally the opposite.
You were like the ‘wooden spoon’ for the club that ended up with you.
And it was always ‘ended up with you’. You never felt picked.
If you were the 3rd from bottom, you were the best of a bad bunch.
Second from bottom and you were ‘at least better than the other one, but still a liability’.
Bottom and you were the booby prize … the ‘thing’ no one wanted and was basically shoved in goal because they believed they would be so good, you’d never be called upon and couldn’t fuck up their game.
I was in that situation more than once and I swear to god, Mr Bale probably was as well.
And that’s why that photo probably had such an effect on me, because it reminded me of those times as a kid where ‘success’ was not about getting stuff or being told stuff, it was when you felt a level of emotion that could only be expressed by jumping in the air and screaming from the bottom of your lungs.
Infectious success, as I call it.
Sadly, I don’t get that feeling anywhere as much any more.
Sure, there are moments, but it’s not the same and certainly not as often.
Maybe – and probably – it’s because I’m 43 not 13, but I miss it.
Though what I’m probably saying is I miss being 13, despite acting it most of the time.
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