Brazilian football, jumpers for goalposts, and gambling

Playing football filled in a large part of our school holiday days as kids which is rather ironic these days given that I can’t stand the game, on the other hand the game of football int he 1960s is a million light years away from the game of nancyfootball in these softer times.

As a “for instance” I quote The Ladybird Book of How to Play Football”, everyone of a vintage knows about the Ladybird books, you couldn’t turn a corner in your school without falling over a bookcase full of Ladybird books, books for kids with lots of pictures and then advice given to you in short easily read sentences in a  condescending manner, each book a different topic.

In The Ladybird Book of How to Play Football circa 1960 there is one page which demonstrates the perfectly acceptable tactic of “The Shoulder Barge” with a picture of one boy with the ball at his feet while another boy runs headlong into him and uses the top of his shoulder to shove the first boy off the ball, or maybe to shove him into row C of the main stand, either way it was a perfectly acceptable part of the game in the 1960s, if you had the ball at your feet then other players were entitled to shove you away from it.

Can you imagine the furore if that were allowed now ?

We played football all day long in teams that could contain any number of players from just three or four to 20 or 30-a-side, jumpers for goalposts, (yes really) and scores that sometimes hit three figures, you could play all day sometimes and hardly ever touch the ball, you could play all day sometimes and never see the bloody ball, but the best player in his own mind who played in those games was Barry Lynce.

This was the era of the Brazilian football team of football magicians, no-one could play football like the Brazilians and in 1970 they fielded what many still argue to be the best football team in the world, ever, and so of course it wasn’t too long afterwards that Barry Lynce had convinced himself that he should have been a part of that World Cup winning team.

Barry Lynce was what we quaintly called a “goal-hanger”, that is he spent the whole of the game stood around the oppositions penalty area waiting for someone to pass to him so that he could touch the ball once on its way into the goal and claim it for himself, but so great was Barry Lynce in his own mind that he had to commentate on his own performance in the style of David Coleman, so the ball would approach his end of the pitch and his commentary would get louder and more frenetic until finally he would touch it in flight on its way to goal and he’d claim all the credit for the next three weeks, he being the final link in the Brazilian chain of excellence to score between the jumpers at the cricket field, “Rivelino, Jairzinho, Pele….LYNCE!   ONE-NIL!!!!”

(You all did the David Coleman voice just then didn’t you ?)

And when we weren’t playing football, on the days when it rained, we were inside the house gambling on horse racing, officially gambling with a game designed for children who wanted to grow up to be gambling addicts in the sport of horse racing – Escalado.

We hear so much these days of parental control and of age classifications for video games – there was none of that in the 1960s, your parents could happily buy you a game that would teach you how to gamble your wages on the horses for the rest of your life, and they’d call it “fun” or “character building”.

Escalado required you to have a long dining room table in your house, which to be fair most people did, to which you would attach a long piece of green plastic coated cloth, tied at one end to a firm object like a chair and at the other to a plastic contraption that required someone to wind a handle rapidly which in turn operated a ratched device to cause the taut cloth to jerk from end to end – this jerking motion is what caused the lead horses to shuffle down the length of your mothers dining room table until they fell off the side onto the floor or crossed the finish line.

There was a pretence of using the paper Monopoly style money that came with the Escalado set but of course it wasn’t long before we were using our own real money and not much longer after that before we all learned a valuable lesson in life the hard way – when you go to the races with ten pence in your pocket you always leave the races with no pence in your pocket, except for Vaz, who always left the races with everyone elses money in his pocket.


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