Twelve glimpses of soccer Christmas

by Tom Dart and Richard Farley

 

Comfort

DEC25. CR7. Wake; put on my own-brand underwear and my own-brand t-shirt. Listen to commentary of the 61 goals I scored in 2014 on my own-brand headphones. Doubt: is my statue too small? Does Messi have a bigger one? Think about going to my museum to check, but I remember: It’s Christmas. It’s shut. But frustration passes. My online store is always open.

Game plan

Awake all night thinking about the Christmas tree formation. Should I have arranged the presents in three even piles across the front of the tree, or four? Or five? Gone for strong, high stacks, or more nimble, smaller groups? Overloading at the front looks good but may leave us weak at the back. Should we use zonal gifting, or would that create too much box-to-box chaos? What did I do last year? It worked so well. Can’t quite recall. Thought I was being organized, getting my shopping done in August. Maybe I should have waited; second-guessing my purchases, but no returns. C’mon, Brendan. Christmas shouldn’t be this hard.

Unwelcome present

When a present has Caribbean-themed wrapping, you open it first. Of course I regretted it. Another trophy. “Abby Wambach – 2014 CONCACAF Player of the Year.” For fuck’s sake. I haven’t been good. I know it. Are these assholes being sarcastic, or do they just not watch? I don’t care. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care – it’s Christmas. Vodka with my egg nog. Cigarettes on the porch. Get it out of my system, and bounce back in March. But seriously: Fuck this trophy.

September 20

You want me to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. Why should I bow to your wishes, respect your conventions? It is boring. It’s bullshit. If I do what everyone else does, Zlatan is no longer Zlatan. You say to me, “but Zlatan, it has been this way for thousands of years. That’s how it is. We don’t make a fuss about it.” And I say I do things my way. And that’s why next year my Christmas will be on September 20, the birthday of Henrik Larsson. I will buy myself a car that travels faster than the speed of sound, so I can’t hear you.

Packaged revolt

The goalkeeper, like the gift, stays in the box. But not forever. Today we rip open the barriers, we throw away the chains, we gain access to a world of wonder. What is unexpected is revolutionary. Our roles are not packaged. Our lives are not contained. Today, we are all Manuel Neuer. Today, we can be what we want.

Snow and litter boxes

It’s quiet in Idaho. Snow, trees – occasional power. I can see why Henry Hill couldn’t find good noodles. I go days without seeing anyone and stare into the woods, wondering where I’ll write my manifesto. That’s all anyone does up here, I assume. I can see why.

It’s the life I chose. No room for my cats. No buffets in sight. I am now Steve Thomas – clean-shaven, 200 pounds lighter than I was. And unless you’ve seen my FBI file, you’d never know: I am also Chuck Blazer, dead to the world.

Bathtub nativity

A Christmas tree. That’s flammable. If he ripped the paper off all the gifts he bought himself (shortly before forgetting what they were), there’d be enough fuel to melt another bathtub. Unfortunately, there’s nothing else to do. For Mario Balotelli, Christmas in England was always tougher than Milan – twice as tough when there’s a match tomorrow.

The deal

“Hey, Syd … It’s me. Again. Look, I know you’re with family, and it’s Christmas, and I saw the picture you posted. Anyway, it’s been a couple of days, and … look, I just miss you. And if we’re going to be committed to this power couple thing, I need you to stay in touch! Okay, well, Merry Christmas. Wish you were here … by the way, this is Dom.”

Pacified

“From Giorgio,” read the tag. Luis already knew what it was. Given the size of the box, it should have been a bracelet, or a watch. Lifting the lid, the initial hint of gold restored hope. But beneath the red tissue paper, resting in a bed of thinned cotton was a pacifier, gold-plated and engraved: “June 30, 2014. Thanks for the memories.”

The calligrapher

Get up, wash, get dressed. The razor sits, unopened, imprisoned, in a draw beneath my sink. The path not taken. Though my face is kind of itchy. Christmas! Gifts; gifted; a gift. “To Andrea.” What does it all mean? I think back to the pen Milan gave me as a leaving present. They were writing me off, but I am the calligrapher of my own destiny. I control the ball, and the ballpoint. I spend the day on my PlayStation: someone’s given me FIFA `15. I play as myself. I win.

With J and M

Landon had just started learning FIFA `15’s controls when the iPhone interrupted: “10 am Christmas J and M’s.” He had to leave the house. Twenty minutes east, 25 minutes north and a short drive west and he’d be at the beach, with his friends, pretending he wouldn’t rather be playing with their kids. Which would require putting on some jeans, and shaving and brushing his teeth, all afternoon activities these days.

Commitments were something so Carson. His mind was already back in Phnom Penh. Regardless, he was bored.

One day, each year

Go away! Nobody wants to see us. Not now. Not ever! You have all the other days — the rest of the calendar — but give me this one. No more microphones, and no more lies. I don’t want to listen to Michael, or pretend I’m listening to Hans. For 24 hours, all I want is this chair, this robe. I want to start of House of Cards!

I’ve already agreed: We’ll try for another term. So just give me today, Sepp. Let me be Josep, for one last day.

 

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