Walking Football

The old men on the indoor pitch surge forward 
tortoise-like, pass, dribble, feint, attempt a header
now and then. Sometimes the ball rolls to a stop.
There’s no-one on the touchline singing or cheering
and the ref’s a PE teacher from the Tech.
The score hardly matters: we’re talking fitness,
getting out, improving everybody’s self-esteem.
It’s a bit like Saturday morning aqua class, but this
is for the seniors and no-one has to get undressed.
A sudden burst of movement on the wing
takes everybody by surprise. The outside left
is almost running, stumbling really, but his way is clear.
He shoots, the ball spins sideways off the pitch,
the goalie straightens up. But no-one groans:
they’ve almost reached full time and everybody’s won.
Afterwards, they stand around the vending machine
and sip their decaffs, tell a joke or two and reminisce.
There’s talk about an entry for the Walking Football Cup;
it doesn’t come to much. They say goodbye with promises
they’ll be along next week: what had gone missing,
sparse fleeting moments, coming into view again
as they walk together through the busy streets,
their shadows scoring hat-tricks in the sun.

The Cannon’s Mouth, 72, June 2019, www.cannonpoets.org.uk


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