I remember when I was still playing football on a regular and competitive basis. One weekend our team traveled to Olney, Maryland to play against their travel team. Here in the States, we don’t have academies, really; we have what we call “select” or “travel.” Aside from ODP (Olympic Development Program), it’s the closest we have to competitive youth football.
So, we get there and the atmosphere is pretty typical. Olney was known for being a dirty team. Even the parents were dirty – yelling at the opposing team’s kids, swearing, threatening, etc. We never ever liked playing them. From the get-go, their kids are acting like total heathens. It quickly turns into a battle. As the game got into the last few minutes, one of their players slides in studs up – from behind – and takes down our sweeper. In the heat of the moment, I chase him down, a la Wayne Rooney, and absolutely take him out. The play was dead. Everyone saw it. Ref shows me red. I knew it was coming. I storm off the pitch, more upset at how out of hand the game had gotten than actually getting the red. My coach grabs my arm, looks at me, and reprimands me for stooping to their level. I didn’t want to hear him, so I grabbed my bag and stormed off to the car to wait, a la Balotelli. He was old and he didn’t get it. He was out of touch with the game. I was 13 and that’s exactly what I was thinking at that exact moment. In that instance, I had no desire to listen to anyone. I was above it all. I was right; I was defending my player; I wasn’t going to be told otherwise. Sound familiar?