Dodgy Tackle: Part 5

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Hopes of a return to normality when the work week began that Monday morning were voided as soon as he walked through the front doors. Immediately, a pretty young secretary, not quite out of her teens rushed up to him throwing her arms around his neck and giving him a big kiss on the cheek. A middle aged female manager gave him a bear hug while whispering in his ear, “The women of Britain are proud of you.” His closest friend at the firm, Harry Tilsley, clapped him on the back while telling him, “You got Fonsecca good.” He then produced several copies of sports pages from the Sunday and Monday papers, including the one his girlfriend had shone him. Andy’s eyes momentarily lit up at the headline, “Fonsecca Crocked!” and “Just Desserts For A Rapist!” Even his boss told him how impressed he was with the tackle. Andy couldn’t help but feeling pleased with himself and thinking that he had done the country a great service.

He hoped the match was behind him when he reported for training on the Tuesday evening. Upon arrival, a teammate informed him that the manager wanted to see him in his office. Obediently, he went straight there thinking he was going to get a well deserved dressing down for his sending off.

Looking up at him, Manager Drury informed his midfielder, “The FA has suspended you pending a hearing.” Seeing Andy’s surprised look, he added, “We were beginning to dominate that match until you committed that foul and got sent off. Look, personally, I’m glad you got that Spanish thug but it cost us the match. You let the team down.” Andy couldn’t help but to agree with his manager.

While he tried his best to ignore the publicity gained from his tackle on Felipe Fonsecca during the nine days leading up to his hearing with the FA, it seemed to follow him everyhwere he went. Naturally, he had the backing of his family, friends, colleagues and teammates and several women’s groups applauded his courage for defending women, the media, on the other hand, were more divided.

Every newspaper, big and small, seemed to have an opinion on Andy’s foul. One columnist thanked him for doing to Fonsecca what everyone in the UK secretly wanted to do. Another agreed with his girlfriend’s father’s call for him to be knighted. Most, however, took the more neutral road by saying that they sympathised with his reasons but crippling Fonsecca was not the way to go about it. Of course, there were some columnists on the other side of the fence. One called Andy a bigger thug than Vinny Jones while another said he should be banned from football for life. The sports press all seemed to be against him.

Thoughts and emotions bounced around his head like a pinball as Andy went into his hearing with the Football Association. They didn’t lessen any when he stood before the FA Disciplinary Committee and only increased when they asked him why he did it. He wanted to be truthful but at the same time didn’t want to hang himself either. “A few minutes earlier, I cleanly took the ball off of him and he said something to me in Spanish. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound friendly,” he attempted to explain.

Do you feel that Felipe Fonsecca should have been allowed back into football after his release from prison?” an unknown face on the committee asked him.

Again, Andy wanted to tell the truth without hanging himself. “I didn’t think he should have been allowed back in the game so easily,” he began. “After all, he committed a rape and hasn’t even apologised to his victim for what he put her through. I am genuinely sorry for the injury I caused to Felipe Fonsecca.”

He braced himself for the FA’ decision and hoped that his plea was enough to convince the committee to be lenient with him. When they returned an hour later, hoped that would be a good omen on his behalf. His heart missed a beat as the committee chairman announced the decision.

You thought that brinigng down Fonsecca would make you some kind of hero in the media and the eyes of the nation. While we don’t condone what Felipe Fonsecca has done, he has served his time and it doesn’t give you or any other player the right to exact justice against him on the pitch. We will not tolerate vigilantes in football. Taking everything into account, the FA has decided to suspend you from football for a period of three months. This includes coaching or working in anyway with teams in the Football Association.”

Interest in Andy’s suspension lasted for only two days in the media and only for four on social media. Still, it was long enough for the White Hart Lane Firm to post on his wall, “The FA let you off lightly, we won’t.” Even the death threats subsided rather quickly. Instead, he concentrated his life outside of football. Most importantly, repairing his relationship with his girlfriend, Charlotte, which he did so well, that they got engaged four weeks later.

If it hadn’t been so much in the sports pages, most people would have never known about Fonsecca’s supposedly miraculous recovery. Having some of the best medical practitioners money could buy had a lot to do with it. What it meant was that on a typical Saturday afternoon in April at White Hart Lane, in the seventy-fifth minute and leading 3-0 against a team that was destined for relegation, Felipe Fonsecca stepped onto the pitch to a rapturous ovation. Those fifteen minutes he was on the pitch made little impact on the match but Tottenham fans were glad to see their hero back.

Andy’s ban ended two weeks later and he dutifully reported for training. Techincally, his first session back went well and all of his teammates were certainly glad to see him. In the one match he played, his game was clinically sound. He dominated the midfield just like he had done in the match against Spurs before he was sent off. He sent more than one perfect balls into the box and with two of those, Jason’s shot found the back of the net. However, when he made a clean sliding tackle against an opponent, stripping the ball off of him, the opposing player remarked, “Great tackle, but then again, I didn’t rape anyone.” He knew then something just didn’t feel right. His heart was no longer in the game, so after that match, Andy formally retired from football.

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Dodgy Tackle: Part IV

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Nobody said a word when Andy stated that he wouldn’t be joining the team in a comisseration piss up. Instead, he went home and spent a quiet evening at home. It was only out of routine that he turned on “Match of the Day” at 10:45 that night. Besides, he wanted to see how his beloved Liverpool fared in their third round cup match. He was completely unprepared for what was to come on the programme.

After Gary Lineker’s normal introduction of “Some cracking goals and exciting games,” he opened with the match he played in that day. “Tiny Epping Forest Utd were hoping for a giant kill against premiership side Tottenham,” Lineker began. “Let’s pick up the action from White Hart Lane.”

The millions watching the late night football programme got to see Fonsecca’s opening charge down the pitch aided by Lineker’s own commentary: “Fonsecca goes tearing down the pitch past the defense and looks like he’s going to put Spurs up in the very first minute but somehow, the Epping Forest keeper makes a miraculous save.”

It was a tremendous save, fair dues to that goalie,” the Scotsman on the commentary team affirmed.

Footage then skipped to later on in the first half with Lineker explaining, “It’s a very good ball in here and if it wasn’t for Spurs’ defender Ian Jones, getting his head on the ball to redirect it, it could have been disasterous for Spurs.”

Guest analyst Michael Owen described the next bit of footage. “Epping Forest get another great ball in, the striker hits it well and we see that Tottenham keeper Ernst Koernig is clearly beaten on the shot and it’s just unlucky that the shot just goes inches wide of the post.”

After a few replays of the closest Epping Forest Utd would come to scoring, Gary Lineker took back over the commentating. “Here’s Fonsecca, he dummies past one player and then we see another Epping Forest player slide in with this dangerous tackle on him.”

Sitting at home, Andy finally got to see his foul in its full glory. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw Fonsecca tumble head over bum and land on the ground writhing in obvious agony. Those few seconds of good feeling were interrupted by the Scotsman who interjected, “This was a gross deliberate foul on Fonsecca. I think this Epping Forest player was deliberately trying to injure Fonsecca here.” The foul was replayed at least eight times and for the first four times, the Scot pointed out, “You can see his leg is at least one foot off the ground and the bottom of his boot connects squarely with Fonsecca’s leg, just above the knee. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a deliberate foul.”

Watching the remainder of the replays, the rest of the commentary team agreed with him. Michael Owen added after, “I think that with all the controversy surrounding Felipe Fonsecca’s return to football after serving time for rape, the fouler probably thinks he’s going to be some sort of hero.”

The elder statesman on the team, a noted football commentator, stated plainly, “No matter what Fonsecca has done off the pitch, there is no excuse for behaviour like this on it. The football pitch is not the place for vigilante justice.”

Trying to move things along, Gary Lineker commented, “We see the referee here showing the player in question, mid-fielder Andy Treharne, the red card and that sending off set the tone for the rest of the match.”

Andy didn’t know what to think when his picture was displayed to everyone in the country who was watching. He was having his fifteen minutes but wasn’t sure it was in a good way, not as far as the “Match of the Day” commentators were concerned. Andy switched off the television with out waiting for the Liverpool result.

Some unknown force compelled Andy to check his social media when he was wide awake the following Sunday morning. Upon opening his Facebook page, he shocked to see so many people had posted messages on his wall. Many were from ladies congratulating him for doing in the rapist. There were also a good number of men in agreement telling him he had done a great service to football. Of course, there were a few negative comments from angry Spurs supporters. Many called him a dirty player and some of those said he should be banned from football forever. Those didn’t bother him to much until he saw one that really disturbed him. It was from a group calling themselves the ‘White Hart Lane Firm.’ Their post read, “You might have gotten Fonsecca but we will get you. You’re a dead man!”

Thoughts about death threats against him didn’t last long. A knock at the door saw to that. He opened the door to a sight that made his jaw practically hit the ground. His girlfriend, who he hadn’t spoken to in two weeks following a row, was there with her long blonde hair hanging down. Her long brown coat was open to reveal a short, tight, blue dress. All he could do was stare.

Aren’t you going to invite me in?” she asked.

Andy dithered for a further moment before opening the door wider and granting his visitor entry. She wasted no time in revealing her motivation for being there holding up a copy of a Sunday tabloid showing him the back page. The big headline read, “Unknown Vigilante Gets Fonsecca!” Underneath was the picture of his now infamous tackle. “My friend says you’re a hero among women and my father thinks you deserve a knighthood,” she declared.

Oh thanks,” was all he could say. He didn’t need to say anymore. His girlfriend melted into his arms with the promise of reconciliation. It at least took his mind off the previous day’s match for the rest of the Sunday.

Dodgy Tackle: Part 3

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Only three of the starting eleven from Epping Forest Utd had ever been inside the ground at White Hart Lane and then only as spectators. They were in danger of being overwhelmed by the huge football ground and the sea of home supporters in blue and white who came to cheer on the home side. Manager Drury pointed to the pitch and reminded his team that it was the same as the one at Epping Forest and identified the small ripple of fans in red and yellow who had come out to see them make history. The manager’s words gave them the reassurance they needed.

In the opening minute of the match, things looked like they were going to go down the predicted route when Fonsecca received a well aimed pass and streaked down the pitch past a spellbound defender. As he closed in on the goal, he kicked the ball with a thunderous strike that all of the 30,000 Tottenham fans were certain was going to end up in the back of the net. Somehow, by some miracle, the Epping Forest goalkeeper took a giant leap and managed to get his fingers on the ball just enough to knock it off its intended path. Any ideas of Spurs scoring on the ensuing corner were quickly dashed as Andy easily headed the kick out of harm’s way.

Tottenham fans were dead certain it would only be a matter of minutes until their team scored. When Andy easily headed the ensuing corner out of harm’s way, their thoughts remained the same. However, Andy and his Epping Forest Utd teammates had other ideas. Andy’s bulky six foot one frame combined with his suprising quickness helped him establish his dominance in mid-field. He seemed to be everywhere, frustrating the Spurs mid-fielders with every kick of the ball. They couldn’t get anything past him and on the one occasion they did, even the least knowledgable football pundit could see that Fonsecca was miles offside.

Twenty-five minutes in, his dominance began shifting the flow of the match Forest’s way. He sent three really good balls into the Tottenham box and only premiership defending prevented catastrophe for Spurs. Then in the thirty-first minute, he sent a perfect fourth ball in that landed right on the foot of the Epping Forest striker. Teammate Jason Blakeborough struck true and his shot whistled past the Tottenham keeper just inches wide of the right post. The miss brought sighs of relief from the 30,000 Tottenham fans and encouraging shouts of “unlucky” from the small band of Epping Forest supporters.

The ensuing goal kick was headed by a Tottenham mid-fielder straight to Fonsecca. In the second the Spanish star took to control the ball, Andy was there to take it off him and pass it to a teammate before he had any time to react. After he made the pass, Andy noticed Fonsecca looking at him with disdain. The Spaniard muttered something to him in his native tongue and though Andy didn’t understand Spanish, the tone in which it was said sounded derogatory.

Ten minutes later, Forest were looking the better side. Instead of going forward, Fonsecca had to drop back as most of the play now was in the Tottenham half of the pitch. He controlled a pass and dribbled past one Forest player. Andy reacted, determined that this rapist wasn’t going to get past him. He slid for the ball and as he slid, something in his mind compelled to raise his extended leg off the ground. He didn’t drop his leg as he homed in on his opponent and with his raised leg, struck Fonsecca just above the knee with the bottom of his boot. Momentum going in opposite directions forced Fonsecca to do a beautiful somersault over the sliding Andy. He landed with a thud and immediately grabbed his injured thigh while flopping around like a dying fish and screaming in agony. Andy simply stood up doing his best to conceal his smug grin.

Spurs medical staffed immediately rushed out onto the pitch to treat their fallen star. They had reached him before the referee had gone to the fouler and after a brief fumble, produced the red card holding it high for all the crowd to see. Andy’s match was over. As he turned to leave the pitch, he couldn’t help not to notice the perplexed and disappointed looks he was getting from his teammates. His team captain looked especially hurt and mouthed “Why?”

Andy smirked, “It was worth it.”

Before leaving the pitch, he took one last good look at Fonsecca who lay on the pitch with the medical team attending to him, still squealing in pain. In his mind, it was those squeals which drowned out the chorus off boos the Spurs fans were giving him as he exited the pitch.

Felipe Fonsecca had to be stretchered off the pitch but unlike Andy, it was to a roaring ovation. The match was never the same when it resumed after Andy’s dismissal. Spurs immediately began exploited the empty space left by Andy and now having one more player on the pitch, began taking the play to Forest. The Portugese sub for Fonsecca ran rings around the Forest defense and two minutes before half time, his shot found the back of the net.

Epping Forest Utd might as well not have come out for the second half because Tottenham totally dominated it. He might not have been Fonsecca, but the Portugese star was a constant thorn in the Forest side, who had no answer in stopping him. He scored two more goals and very late in the game, another Spurs player added a fourth for a 4-0 rout and securing a place in the FA Cup fourth round.

It was probably best for Andy that the rest of the team ignored him on the bus ride home. He was left to his thoughts but the more he thought about his foul and sending off, the more convinced he was that he was right. The FA should have never let that rapist back into the beautiful game, therefore, he did football a favour by putting him out for the rest of the match and quite possibly, the season. On the other hand, he was extremely remorseful that he had let his team down.

Dodgy Tackle Part 2

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For the players of non-league Epping Forest Utd, the Fonsecca story even filtered into their celebrations of having defeated League One side Port Vale 2-0 in the second round of the FA Cup. “He is a disgrace to football!” exclaimed the team’s captain with most of the team nodding in agreement.

If it had been one of us, do you think they would have let us back into football so easily?” queried midfielder Andy Treharne.

The entire team also nodded in agreement with the man whom the Epping Forest team considered a key player. After all, it had been Treharne’s play that helped secure the stunning victory. Throughout the match, he thwarted every attempt by Port Vale’s midfield to get the ball up front to create any chances. Then it was his perfect pass that the led to the first goal for his side. Then, in a fairy tale ending, his cracking shot from twenty-two yards out ensured that his team would be progressing to the third round of the tournament. His performance and that of the rest of the team was enough to put talk of football playing rapists out of mind as the celebrations lasted well into the night.

Mixed feelings of wonder and astonishment, along with the fear that the small club had bitten off more than they could chew surfaced when it was announced that Epping Forest Utd would be playing Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the FA Cup. The sports media immediately began running stories of a David and Goliath battle. The Spurs manager stated that his team would take this match as seriously as they took all of their matches while the Forest manager humbly stated what a great opportunity this was going to be and he was hoping for a bigger giant kill. All that Andy Treharne could think about was whether Felipe Fonsecca would be playing for Spurs that day.

Fonsecca’s return sparked all of the contraversy everyone expected. Many women boycotted Spurs matches home and away. Opposing fans jeered him at away matches with chants of “rapist” and “criminal.” These acts only seemed to motivate him more as he scored three goals in his first five matches with his old club. In interviews, he thanked Tottenham management and supporters as well as the people of Great Britain for giving him a second chance. His demeanour, however, came across as arrogant. It was though he was sticking two fingers at the people of Britain and especially the woman he raped. It made Andy feel sick to his stomach.

Everyone with any sort of attachment to Epping Forest Utd, from players, to management and fans, all agreed that the FA Cup tie with Tottenham was going to be the biggest match in the team’s history. The atmosphere around their tiny ground reflected it. At home matches, the stands were full to capacity as newly found supporters came to cheer them on. In the weeks running up to the big tie, Epping Forest won three matches and drew one, climbing to the top of their division. There were even posters around the town wishing their team victory.

In the final days before the big match, the minnows focused their attention on the task ahead. Manager Steve Drury made sure that his troops were mentally prepared for the chance at history but this couldn’t keep the sour taste out of Andy’s mouth when it was confirmed that Fonsecca was going to be in the Spurs line up that day. He felt it was just wrong that the criminal would be on the same pitch as him and confirming in his mind everything that was wrong with football at the highest levels.

There were other distractions during the days leading up to the game but they were more pleasant ones. Normally empty stands at training sessions were now filled with well wishers wanting to see the team that was going up against Spurs. After training sessions, Andy and the rest of the team, found themselves signing autographs and posing for selfies with their new followers. Posters appeared in the windows of local businesses cheering the team on. Even at his own job in the City of London, fellow members of his firm wished him luck. All of this should have taken his mind off of Felipe Fonsecca.

I’m Sharing an Old Short Story With You- Dodgy Tackle Part 1

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Since I have received quite a lot of positive feedback when I posted my most recent short story from my upcoming novel here, I thought I would share a past story from a few years back. This story called “Dodgy Tackle” was inspired by the Ched Evans affair. Evans was an British footballer who was convicted of rape and released after serving his sentence.

Dodgy Tackle

Many people throughout the UK, even those who couldn’t care less about football, were disgusted with the decision by top London club Tottenham Hotspur to allow convicted rapist Felipe Fonsecca to return to his old club after just serving two years in prison for the rape of an eighteen year old girl. There were strong outcries from women’s groups and many of the papers agreed with their sentiments. In fact, many people in the UK thought that the Spanish international should be sent back to his own country. Feelings were running very strong.

Fonsecca arrived in the UK five years prior at the age of twenty-one where he established himself on the pitch, scoring eighteen goals for the club in his first season. His continued great play the following season earned him a spot on Spain’s national team and Spurs fans were quick to forgive him when he scored the game winner against England in a friendly.

It was his performances off the pitch that gave some people concern. Rumours abounded of him acting inappropriately towards women and he was thrown out of a West End club for touching a young lady’s bottom. Furthermore, Fonsecca had a fiery temper as well, getting into a few drink filled altercations at a few night spots. One of these landed him in court and getting a £500 fine when he hit a man over the head with a bottle when the man confronted him over making a lewd comment about his girlfriend. While some remarked that Fonsecca had gotten off too lightly, little was said about it and as long as he kept kicking balls into the back of opposing team’s nets, no one was going to.

The rape, on the other hand, couldn’t be so easily ignored. Too many people saw Fonsecca approach the victim who was too drunk to agree to anything. The saw him guide the girl into a dark alley only for him to emerge triumphantly a few moments later. A good number of witnesses heard him boasting to his friends about how he gave her one. Fortunately, a good number also saw the girl come out of the alleyway moments later after Fonsecca had gone. The young lady was clearly looking distressed. Her tights were ripped and she was sobbing very heavily and holding her pants in her hand. Seeing the state she was in, a good Samaritan gave assistance and called the police.

Felipe Fonsecca was arrested and charged with rape. At his trial and in spite of his celebrity status and his barrister’s attempts to make the victim look like a cheap slut, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The evidence against him had been irrefutable. This did not stop his army of supporters ceaselessly campaigning to clear his name during his incarceration.

That wasn’t the worst of things, at least not for the victim. Someone discovered her identity and leaked it onto social media. The result was a savage hate campaign against her calling her a liar and a tart. In the end, she was forced to move far away and change her name, which made her a victim a second time around.

Now released on probation after just serving half of his prison term, Fonsecca was free to continue his football career. Tottenham management played the “everyone deserves a second chance” card but only Tottenham fans bought that one. Women’s groups were still up in arms and started an online petition to the club not to sign him. Others argued that he could continue his career back in Spain but the club ignored all of these and welcomed him back. Many opinions were being expressed and the topic wasn’t going to go away very quickly.