Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THE world of football was turned upside down last week when Leicester City won the English Premiership for the first time.

The accepted narrative is that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of blokes and that’s fine.

The only trouble with the accepted wisdom is that there were one or two question marks over some of the players and what we might call their ethics; take a bow no-nonsense defender Robert Huth. 

Then again, even David when he slew Goliath fought dirty .

The romance of the Leicester win and the impending European Championships have galvanised me somewhat. 

I was never much of a footballer but hey there is still the coaching option and what’s the point of having children if not to test out your coaching skills on them?

Fionn, four, is a lefty and can give it a good wallop when he needs to but he can also weight the ball a little and has an idea of what a pass is. 

Luke, however, is right-footed and at two is understandably slightly less nuanced. 

That said, he does have something that can’t be coached, something altogether Huth-ish or, dare I say it, Roy Keane-ish.

The other evening, Luke approached me with a little football in his hand.

“Kick the bawl Dada?” he asked.

How could I resist such enthusiasm? But it was lashing it down outside and Ciara was five minutes away from serving up their pasta — full of carbs, good for the energy. 

We decided that we’d have an indoor session for five minutes, just a little practice on that aforementioned more nuanced passing.

All was going fine as we kicked the ball up and down the corridor. Fionn, who had been in the sitting-room watching tele, decided he would join the session too and, as the coach, I decided to take the opportunity to work on the idea of passing. 

It remained just that — an idea.

Within two minutes of his joining the fray, the team lost its shape completely. 

Luke now didn’t know where he was or what position he was supposed to be in and, as a result, he began to get confused. 

His orientation was further hampered by the fact that there were now two voices, that of his father the coach and that of the new self-appointed captain, Fionn.

Poor little Lukey, a.k.a Lukhino, must have felt like Ronnie Whelan under Jack Charlton as balls went over him and by him. For a full minute, he didn’t get a touch. 

A minute, as they say, is a long time in football and an aeon in the life of a frustrated two-year-old.

As the coach it was my job to see this; a positional change was needed. Fionn would have to go in midfield. 

The captain wasn’t happy about that decision and as a result began to lash out or messing at least, blocking Luke’s and consequently the ball’s path to me. 

Luke tried to get the ball to me on several occasions but each time, Fionn got in the way.

When the ball pinged its way back to him off Fionn’s knee for a third time, Luke reacted. 

He said nothing, looked nowhere and quietly stepped around and in front of the colourful ball, walked two paces up towards Fionn and gave him an almighty kick in his right shin. 

Fionn, who was more shocked at the audacity than in any real pain, looked around at me. 

His face pleaded with me for at least a yellow card but I could only shrug my shoulders.

As poor Fionn rubbed his newly aching shin, Luke went back behind the ball, laid off the perfect pass to me and proceeded to walk off the pitch into the kitchen.

“Luke,” said his mother. “Don’t kick your brother like that. That’s terrible.”

As she turned back to ladle their dinner into their bowls, she raised her eyebrow and a little smile cracked across her face.

Even David played dirty and sure he’s in the Bible.


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