Playing Football for the Verona Fathers

Playing for the Football Team

The alternative dream that I had to become a priest was to be a footballer, like, I’m sure, lots of little boys. I wanted to play for Celtic and Scotland. I was a decent enough footballer but I would never have made the grade. However, you don’t think like that when you are that age.

So, it was a great to find out that the college had a football team. It was the first year ever for them in the local football league. I think Pinkie may have had some involvement in setting it up. The league was a church league and all the teams were from the local churches. We were the only Catholics in the league.

I can’t remember whether they asked or told the boys that there was to be a trial for the team. They never really asked very much. They almost always told.

Trial for Football Team

Anyway, I played in the trials but didn’t play particularly well. I thought I might well just miss out and that turned out to be the case. They read out the names of the people that they expected to be in the team and called them the Probables. I had never heard of the term before and didn’t realise that where there are Probables there are also Possibles.

Pinkie read out the names of the Probables slowly and with intent and drama. He would have made a good compere of Big Brother or Survivor or the X Factor four decades later. As the ninth and tenth names were read out and none of them were mine I began to fear that I would lose out. When the eleventh name was read out and I was missing from the list I felt awful.

Then Pinkie said that before the first match the Probables would play a match against the Possibles. I played a blinder in that match. I scored both goals, both of them solo efforts, as the Possibles went 2-0 up. We held that till late in the match when the Probables pulled one goal back and then a second.

They claimed that they scored a third but it was disputed. We reckoned it was offside and they didn’t. There was no referee and no one to solve the dispute. They said they won 3-2 and we said it was 2-2. Still it was a magnificent performance by the 2nd eleven against the 1st.

Pinkie’s Team Selection

People were telling me for days afterwards that I’d definitely be in the team. I didn’t believe it. Pinkie wasn’t even there, I told them, like he had been at the original trial. This was just a practice match for the A team for the first game.

Before the first game Pinkie read out the names, one by one, of the team.

I was picked. I was in the side. I was going to play. Magic!

We actually played in the Inter Milan strip. One of the Fathers was an Inter Milan fan and that is why we played in the strips. I can’t remember which one of the Fathers it was. It wasn’t Fr. Cerea who supported Fiorentina.

It was nothing like the other strips that the other teams played in. Inter Milan were probably the top club in Europe at the time. We felt a bit special pulling on the strip.

And we were good – very good.

We won the league at our first attempt. Boy did that feel so good. I still remember quite a few of the individual matches though they were more than four decades ago.

It was heaven to be on the football team. The other boys came to all our matches home and away and cheered us on. Even though it was compulsory the vast majority would have come anyway.

There were two things to be in, the football team and the choir, and I was in both.

Oh happy days!

Greatest Joy

The football team was the source of my greatest joy when I was at the college and also my greatest sadness – but more of that later.

I am sure that people will read this book and look at all the sexual abuse, the psychological torture, the military regime and the strict and regimented rules and conclude that this was a terrible thing to do to young boys and a terrible place to be.

However, I loved it there and didn’t want to leave. Even at the time I thought it was the best and happiest period of my life. I still believe it today. It was definitely the best and key years of my life. I wouldn’t swap that experience for anything.

All Glad We Came

It was interesting that at the last college reunion I went to that when I asked everyone “do you wish that episode of your life had never happened, that you had simply went to your local secondary school and avoided all the stuff that went on at the college?” the answer was a unanimous No.

The bad things that happened, to me anyway, however bad they were, were irregular intrusions in a happy time of my life. I remember I worked with a guy who had been to sea before he worked in computers. He told us the things that he had done and the things he had seen at sea.

It seemed a great life. “Where could we sign on?”, those listening thought. We were wasting our lives working in computers. However, he hated the life at sea. All those things happened over a ten year period. The in-between bits (most of the time) were awful for him. He hated it almost immediately after he had signed up for ten years.

He said that he thought that he couldn’t get out and that he had to go through with all of it. It basically screwed him up for life. He told us that he didn’t realize, then, that he could have got himself out. However, he didn’t know, so he spent ten horrible years in a job he hated from the very start.

It was the same but in an opposite way at the college. When I tell here of all the bad things that happened it sounds like an awful life. However, the bad things happened over a period of a few years. The bulk of the time was good.

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One response to “Playing Football for the Verona Fathers

  1. I feel the same.,apart from cleaning the long corridor shit with sawdust and wax polishing i enjoyed éven the punishments…for example having to spend my free time with my best pal Gus Macpherson who had also been a naughty boy, in Ched,s garden in the afternoon and then the evenings in Stenico,s library where i underlined in pencil the murderers in all of the Agatha Christie,s novels as soon as they came into the plot…lol.Gus had done something that gave him 3 weeks punishment and i was so happy that when we climbed out of a window as a shortcut to the courtyard ,that bastard Russel caught us and we got the same deal…

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