Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Along comes trouble, just when you don't expect it

The Weald of Kent is a charming place, with million pound houses surrounded by apple and cherry orchards. My Saturday afternoon trip was a delight on a late summer's day, with the fruit trees groaning under the weight of apples, pears and plums begging to be picked. "Fancy a cup of tea Ref?" Always a good sign that you've come across a friendly club.

It was the away team I'd need to keep an eye on, coming from a very different part of the county, where social deprivation is rife and violent crime is commonplace.
There was a decidedly relaxed atmopshere as the two teams warmed up. One was well established in the league, the others were newcomers and had only played a couple of games.
I blew the whistle for kick-off looking forward to some exercise, easing my way into the new season.
25 minutes later, the home team has 9 players and my cards have been flying out of my pocket, all aimed at players from one club. Not the lads from the deprived and troublesome part of the country, but the players from the opulent Weald who turned out not to be gentlefolk at all.
The first 25 minutes doubled my red card tally for the whole of the previous season, when I sent off just one player. I can't remember a game when I've been put under such pressure from players and team officials alike, from start to finish.
After 15 minutes one player saw red for violently upending an opponent. Ten minutes later a young lad with long hair and ponytail paid the price for his hairstyle when an opponent grabbed it and yanked his head back, sending him flying. In between I'm doling out yellows for fouls, dissent, bad language. You name it, they were doing it.
There were a dozen or so spectators and every one of them seemed to be screaming abuse throughout the game, ensuring the volatility levels of the game remained high. Every decision was angrily contested.
The home team's goalkeeper was injured at one point, by what I judged was an accidental collision. Cue the wrath of the Gods and a purple faced gentlemen in a home team tracksuit came rushing on the field to abuse me. Asked who he was, he refused to identify himself and I told him to get off the field.
The away team squeezed out a 2-1 victory against their nine opponents and the game ended with plenty of abuse. Even the kindly official who had offered me a cup of tea at the start insisted on telling me how useless I'd been as I entered the toilet doubling up as a changing room.
"Fuck off back to where you came from," were the kindly words offered as I got into my car to drive home, admittedly somewhat shell-shocked at my failure to realise that you can never know where the trouble will come from.

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