Sunday, Bloody Sunday: My Left Foot

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Wherein a milquetoast sends dispatches from the continuing kitchen sink drama of poorly organised sport…

“LEFT FOOT! LEFT FOOOOOT!!!”

I paraphrase, but that’s more or less the sum of my experience in playing Sunday league football against ‘clever’ right-backs. I am left-footed, and play as a left-winger. I occupy the philosophical space between derring-do and swashbuckling. I run at terrifying leg-speeds. When congested, I run so fast that it loosens phlegm, and leaves blurred lines trailing from my nose as I run, like lines of motion arcing from the limbs of a comic book character that is clearly moving very quickly indeed. Spectating old men watch in awe of this greyhound of a winger, fulsome in his old-fashioned wing-play, harking back to the days of Stanley Matthews, before he sold out and became a “Sir”. The fact of the matter is – I favour my left foot.

Sunday League football is awash with empty platitudes that can be screamed at unnecessary volume across soggy, woebegone pitches, in an effort to appear tactically insightful. Some of the more ambitious players attempt to target individual threats without modern essentials such as punditry and television replays, and try and rely on their own observational nous. The target of such men is to convey this message: “I HAVE SPOTTED A GLARING WEAKNESS. EXPLOIT THIS AND WE SHALL TRIUMPH.” Nothing captures the essence of this intelligence and cunning more than successfully identifying a player who favours his left foot.

Nobody ever shouts “RIGHT FOOT! RIGHT FOOOOOOT!!!” do they? Imagine it now. Imagine a 16 stone hurly-burly hulk of a centre-back shouting that as they furtively jog backwards, anticipating attack. It never happens, because nearly everybody is right-footed. Left-footed players, as I have found to my immeasurable benefit in my lifetime, are harder to find. Right-footed players can get by using their left feet of course, because there’s more of them. They all join up during the summer holidays, the right-footed players, and practise kicking footballs with their left feet, and puzzle over how anyone could do this all the time? They struggle to comprehend how different the lives of these people must be like to their own, if there is anything about them that resembles normalcy. Do they have regular jobs? Do they still have pudding after the main course? Have they ever truly felt this emotion we call love?

To them, the left-footed player represents everything they stand against. The left-footed player is alien, awkward, anathema. They see them in the warm-up, juggling footballs using their left foot, the right one just planted there, collecting mud, looking listless and pathetic, and this insults them. “What are you trying to say?” they implore wordlessly between neanderthal grunts. The ball comes to the left footed player and they control it, they dribble with it, their head rises, looking for space, and they realise that nobody is moving. Has the game stopped for an injury? No. The captain of the opposing team is shouting “LEFT FOOOOOOT!” and everyone stops to observe that, yes, this is correct. This is where tactics come into play in real life, when a ‘defender’ attempts to ‘force’ the ‘player’ onto his ‘weaker foot’ so he can’t inflict any ‘damage’ ‘.’

That player is me, and eventually I am ushered into uncomfortable positions, and I have no use but to attempt a shot with my right foot. It turns out not so much a kick, but a vague implication of menace as my leg swings wildly. The ball dribbles tamely away. The captain nods sagely and shouts again: “NO RIGHT FOOT!”.

* Further reading, poindexter: The Sinister Ones

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11 thoughts on “Sunday, Bloody Sunday: My Left Foot

  1. Pingback: Sunday Bloody Sunday: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running | Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed

  2. It is true. Whatever continent you play poorly on and whatever language they are shouting. But the pleasure, when you score anyway, with that very same Left Foot…..it is also true that we live shorter lives (nine years on average), but while they last….

    • For the Sunday flying lefties, plying their trade on far flung wings up and down the worlds mud patches and dust bowls, there is the added envy of the right wing colleague who is deftly ripping apart the oppositions right footed left back.

      • But of course. Going to work with the wrong tools is no way to build something. I generally find that it’s easier for right-footed players to play at left-back than for right-footed players to play left-wing. I presume that’s because a defender needs to be less sophisticated with his weaker foot (‘CLEAR IT!’) than a winger is required to be (‘SKIN ‘IM!’).

  3. Ah ! So true, so true. My left foot was poetry in motion, a veitable blur of creative magic and the right i had wisely put away for the season. I have no need for it even now……30 odd years later. To be honest, i don’t know where it is. Could only score with the left side of my forehead when up for a header. How sad is that ? Still. Who cares when the left foot bangs in lot’s of goals ?
    Did’nt know about the 9 year thing though………….

  4. Nicely put.

    It does seem apparently true that players who are completely one footed appear are mostly lefties.

    Maybe this is because competition for left sided players is approximately 1/8 than right sided players and therefore using that foot is an asset for getting picked from a young age. Therefore they forget to learn to use the other as they are stuck out wide and encouraged to stay there. However, the very best cannot be just shown to their right as they will kill you and use the outside of the boot too.

    Righties on the other hand are encouraged to be two footed and not be one dimensional to be better players.

    I tell my very one sided left winger to go inside on his first run of the game and then the right back will always remember that when one on one later and give him just that bit more room to do his stuff.

    • That’s a good idea. What sort of age are you coaching? Are your players too young to consider an inverted winger approach, since that seems to be the flared trouser of contemporary football tactics.

  5. I’m also a left footer though I tend to play ‘in the hole’ rather than out wide- I’m not pacey enough for wing play particularly and prefer to be a pivot player- knocking the ball around corners and all that.

    However, when I was young I did play on the left wing and, like the person above suggests, try and cut inside on the limp right foot the first few times in the game to dupe the defender.

    Since then I have feared (as you mention) becoming a bit one dimensional so whilst it’ll never have the same level of control as my left foot, my right is now something I can work with- In fact I’ve found a lot of joy cutting in on the right foot and shooting as I seem to be able to get more power from my right leg even if the control isn’t quite right all the time.

    SO I try as much as I can to spread my distribution and shooting at about a 60-40 split on my left and right respectively and that has improved my overall play but also gives our team better shape and discipline.

  6. I used to play left wing but now I’m old and play 5-a-side in goal. I always seem to dive to the right every time there’s a one on one (my left foot is like an extra hand) – an astute tactician can work this out by looking at my goalie trousers the right knee is ragged the left is like new but very few ever seem to notice

  7. Lefties tend to be more intelligent and ambidextrous – I’m a leftie but can use my right foot better than most righties can use their left. I can also use a PC mouse in either hand, though I write with my right hand. Left or right is always a % anyway.

  8. Pingback: England Euro 2012 Bingo – Sweden | Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed

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