(First published in Le News 26 June 2014)
With all the football fever in the air, my husband has been fantasising about – finally, finally – getting one of the children interested in sport. He gave up with me just after we met, but with his daughters … well, he might still have someone to watch the rugby with; to go to cricket matches with; maybe even to play golf with, one wonderful day.
His plan has always been to start them young and mould them according to his sporting preferences, and to this end he has showered them with equipment. They’ve had tiny Springbok rugby jerseys since they were babies, little soccer balls, soft rugby balls, plastic golf clubs and a baseball glove (despite the fact that no one in the family has any idea how to play baseball). But the Svengali of Sport suffered a crushing defeat the afternoon he took the five-year-old to a nearby sports ground to teach her how to play football.
Father and daughter kicked a ball around for a while, and everyone had a great time. But then, just when he thought they might start scoring goals, the child decided that the ball was, in fact, a badger.
‘What an imagination,’ chuckled my husband. ‘It’s a badger, is it? How cute. Hello Badger.’ Pat, pat on its round little badger head. ‘Right. Now let’s try to kick the badger through those goalposts.’
The child screamed in horror and delivered a stern lecture to her father about how we treat animals, and they spent the next few minutes engaged in some intense badger-sensitivity training.
Then she said she was bored of that game, and the ball wasn’t an animal anymore.
‘Fabulous,’ he said, taking aim.
Another horrified scream. It seems the badger-ball had turned into an egg-ball. A cheetah egg-ball, to be more precise.
I had to interrupt his story here. ‘Did you explain to her that cheetahs are mammals?’ I mean, talk about a Teachable Moment! But apparently that’s beside the point. The point is that he never got to kick the ball through the goalposts and he had to suffer the indignity of standing in the middle of a sports field, playing Cuddle the Badger with a football.
For a while after that it seemed as if he’d given up on the child-sports thing. But the World Cup has breathed new life into his dream. One day … one day someone might actually use the mini goalposts in the backyard as something other than a jewellery-holder.
I think the seven-year-old may be his answer. She recently got to touch a trophy at her school’s sports day, and is now obsessed with the idea of winning one herself. She’s chosen her favourite sport and she’s willing to put in some hard work to get to the top. Now all she needs is a trainer. I’m not sure how much my husband knows about the 10 metre egg-and-spoon race, but he’d better learn fast.