By Walter Broeckx
I think almost everyone has something from the past on which he thinks : If I had done so and so at that moment in my life what would have happened to the world.
You can imagine that people who have met, let’s say, someone like A. Hitler long before he was known, later could have been thinking: “If only I had killed him before he could do all the terrible things he has done, the world would have been a better place for millions of people.”
Now I’m not going to say I could have killed A. Hitler because I really am not that old. No I carry a deep and dark secret with me and I could have changed the fate of so many Gooners on so many occasions but I never realised it at that moment in my life who I was facing then.
It all happened in the year 2000. I was going on a holiday with my wife and my 4 kids to the south of Spain. We were going to spend 14 days in the sun in a resort and full of intent to make it a really enjoyable holiday. On the plane and on the bus to our resort we met some other Flemish people and we met every now and then in that resort.
In that resort there was some entertainment for the kids but also for the adults, and I don’t mean anything “adult”. A few days each week there was football for the adults. It was on a small pitch with teams of some 5 or 6 people. Teams were made up as you wished, with friends and strangers joining in to create the team.
So we talked with the other Flemish people and we made our team and went to the pitch. Some 5 or 6 teams were there and as new boys in the resort we let the others start and we watched and tried to make some kind of game plan. The games were played until a team scored 2 goals and then the winners continued against another team and so on.
Right from the start we could see an English team that really had something special in it. There were some older men, as we had, but there were some younger lads in it as well. There was, in particular, a boy who they always had to call for when it was time. He had his girlfriend with him and mostly was lying at the pool with her and had to be called over.
And when he came you could see a young man some 14 years old maybe but with a strong and firm body. Very muscular, some might say a little bit overweight but what is exactly overweight ? But when that boy came on the field and touched the ball, something strange happened. He could take the ball all over the field and do anything with it.
So while sitting there we spoke to an older person, from Liège in Belgium, who was just watching the games and who introduced us to another young man who was sitting there about the same age and who was French. The older man also spoke French and he said that the young Frenchman played in Toulouse and was in the French national youth team and if he could play with our team as he had nobody with him. We accepted it because when we saw those English players we realised we needed some fresh legs as our older legs wouldn’t stand a chance.
We decided to go to our old tradition in Belgian football and you could summarize it in four phases: defence, more defence, even more defence and counter attack. I’m sorry to admit it but we invented the park the bus in front of goal tactics.
So when we came on the field we did exactly that: we defended in numbers and put that young French player up front, punted the ball forward to him and he was rather skilful I must say and he scored some real cracking goals. But it is not about that French kid I want to talk.
No it is about that young English boy from Liverpool. We found out he was playing for Everton in the youth team and that he was predicted a bright future in English football. The whole family (including his father, uncles, brother and I don’t know who else), all said this.
And so we played that Everton team and our tactics worked. I must say that apart from being a keeper in my younger days I also was a rather nice technical player, well I always thought I was anyway, and a difficult defender as well. I could hold my ground against technical players by just always covering the angle to the goal and never allow a shot in.
And the other English players were screaming at him: “come on Wayne, shoot” “give us the ball Wayne,” and “bad luck Wayne” (when he accidently did get passed me but our keeper saved).
Well I will not carry on highlighting what turned out years later to be the closest time I ever came to an at that time future world soccer star but I can say that I have played several games against Wayne Rooney. I even had his sweat on my body at many occasions as we played with tops on against tops off. I did wash myself afterwards, rest assured.
We won a few and I really think we, thanks to our tactics, were the toughest opponents they had those 14 days. We lost a few as when our legs were getting tired he dribbled and shot us to pieces. After a few days the tension got higher between our teams and at the end things went wild sometimes and I must admit that in a game when I got kicked I even gave a pushed the occasional player.
In fact I still feel bad about it, it was only a football game on holiday for Christ’s sake but you know how things go sometimes. Must say we had one Flemish guy who played some kind of indoor football and was a great strong technical player.
So every time I see Rooney play I think of those days in the sun. And every now and then I think : What if I had kicked him on his knee by accident and would have destroyed his career? Would I have changed the fate of so many fans? What would Manchester have become without him?
And for those who think this is some kind of bullshit I can only say that I only can tell you that it would be a very big coincidence that I played against a really great 14 year old football wizard kid that came from Liverpool, that was surrounded with his family and his girlfriend, who supported Everton and who had a firm body and a face that looked like… well lets’ stay friendly and gentle… a face that isn’t going to win many beauty contests and has a rather typical form and whose name was Wayne.
I had the life of so many fans in my hands, or should I say feet. I could have spared many miserable moments for so many Gooners. But like the ones that saw Hitler when he was young, I didn’t know what and who he would become. Sorry I could have saved you some disappointments in your Gooner live but really I never have hurt another player in my career, let alone deliberate. Sorry if you feel I let you down.
Now I would like to tell you about a truly wonderful book, it’s called, M… no, Ma…. No, its Mak…. Hang on a moment I’ll just go and check….
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