Friday, 5 October 2012

Playing football in Vermosh

The opening paragraph of the travel book's final chapter

The ball thumped against the churchyard wall and someone cheered. Nobody could remember the score, and we were probably losing, but that was incontrovertibly a goal for our team. I hadn’t had anything to do with it. I was bent double in the centre of the pitch, trying to catch my breath. We were a thousand metres above sea level, and football in Vermosh was fast and physical. I was also the oldest player on the field by nearly twenty years, and for most of those twenty years I’d been smoking half an ounce of tobacco a day. Both teams charged back down the slope, chasing the ball back towards our goal. I still couldn’t move. Nobody in the small crowd who’d gathered to watch the match showed any sign of volunteering to take my place. When someone tried to pass me the ball, more out of sympathy than need, and I toed it straight to one of our opponents, I decided that it was best for all concerned if I retired hurt. My absence wouldn’t affect the result. Lydia and Sam gave two loyal cheers as I limped off and hoisted myself over the churchyard gate.

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