“Small goals” football is still played on the section of road from the entrance to the shortcut leading to La Pansée to the dead-end close to the river—unlike the “challenge” variety of cricket and football; that pastime is as dead as the competitive spirit that spawned it so many years ago. The games were played mainly on weekends and holidays when boys would scramble to get their household chores done as quickly as possible so they could take to the street. Once there, opposing teams, each headed by a captain, would be selected and the challenge match would begin after a small wager was placed by the teams on the outcome of the game.
Those games were mainly fun events, but a fierce desire to win was always in evidence—a desire characterized by the intensity with which the boys played; and woe betide any player who let his team down. Sometimes there were grudge matches—friendly rivalries between certain players who considered themselves the crème de la crème of the games. This was so especially in “small goals” football, when two teams with three players apiece would square off against each other. The wagers placed on those grudge matches were always bigger and crowd participation—from the sidelines, of course—always greater. Then the cheers of admiration for those players who displayed great skill, and the sounds of derision, for those who displayed lackluster performances unworthy even of a novice, filled the street.
There were occasions of infamy too. In a closely-contested cricket challenge, any minor point of contention was hotly pursued by the two opposing teams until one of them conceded. If there was deadlock on a matter, not only would the wagers have to be returned to the respective players, but there was a real possibility that if the bats and balls used in the match belonged to a player or players from one or both of the aggrieved teams, those items would be taken away by the owner or owners. And, in a football challenge―especially the grudge variety―players angered by a “foul” or “handle ball” call made by a player or players from the opposing team would show their displeasure by smashing bottles all along the eighty to ninety feet of the playing area. Or, they would stand in the middle of the area to prevent other matches from being played.
Author’s note: The preceding is an excerpt from the novella, “New Village”, now on Amazon Kindle.