Is That Rain? No, The Author Just Ran Past!
Creaking around the Field of Broken Dreams on my usual Sunday morning match warm-up I couldn’t help but think I’d died and gone to soccer heaven.
It was 6.50am and the view from the field at the Top of the World just a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in Orange County, California resembled a scene out of Lord of the Rings.
The clouds hung in the canyons creating the illusion of a walled garden suspended in mid-air, the early morning dog walkers were still a grumpy wait away from their their morning coffee and a handful of groaning men in colorfully outdated Premier League strips were stretching and pleading with bodies not to betray their age.
But as hard as I tried to count my blessings on this sunny Sunday morning I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that hung over me. Hung all around me as well, as a matter of fact. I’d hoped against hope that this week it would be different but I could already see the heat burning off the frisson of dew on the yellowing grass.
It was going to be another scorcher and that usually meant only one thing - another embarrassing game when I’d be left entirely unmarked at corners.
It never happened when I was growing up playing on the Hackney Marshes in my native England. I’d take more stick than Donald Trump at a hairstyling convention. Or Hillary Clinton at an NRA rally. It was a regular mauling.
But now I’d trot up slowly up to take my position on the edge of the six yard box and the opposition would start shuffling away from me. And I knew that it wasn’t because they thought I’d forgotten how to head the ball.
It was because I was sweating like a pig. Honestly, I could dive into a pool to dry off I was so wet.
The latest super dry fabric of my 2014/15 West Ham United home strip was soaked within minutes of the kick-off and I would swim around the field with water flying off of me like Marmaduke with a hose pipe every time I changed direction.
I was a one-man solution for the California drought. City park workers would come up to me after games and try and fit me with a spigot.
And don’t ask about personal hygiene. Tide was not enough. I needed an entire ocean.
I was sweatier than soccer's hottest footballer, former Espanyol and Birmingham City striker Walter Pandiani (you've got to see this on YouTube - fast forward to really see a man sweat through an interview!!).
But this week I had a plan. Unbeknownst to my wife and children and everybody else who knows me I’d shaved my armpits the night before while pretending to be suffering from a lunchtime chicken tikka.
Then, while the world was asleep before leaving for the game, I carefully stuck two absorbent patches under my pits. The idea was that this wonder product, the Dandi Patch, would soak up my sweat and allow me to pass the ball unpuddled.
I won the PR account to represent Dandi Patch a month ago with the aim of introducing the product to the US after it’s hugely successful launch in the UK helping people in every situation from job interviews to dates to business meetings.
It was originally invented to help women but the brains behind the idea quickly worked out the need for Dandi Patch Man. Which is where I come in.
It was time to put the patch to the ultimate test - 90 minutes of soccer played under the unforgiving heat of the California sun by a middle-aged man who cannot drive past the C’est Si Bon bakery - which is right on his way to work - without buying at least one chocolate croissant every morning.
A couple of minutes in and all was well. The patch was discreetly hidden from view and a couple of sprints (well, fast jogs) left me as dry as a bone. I ran back into my position at center back and noticed that my defensive partner had cast off his poncho.
But the real test came half an hour into the game when our septuagenarian winger tripped over his walker and won a corner.
Hesitantly at first, I started off towards the opposing half. I felt light-headed, my shirt must have been 5 pounds lighter and I took up my usual position in the penalty box, my arm lifted in the air signaling I wanted the ball.
For a second I could sense the defenders checking out my armpit. Then, just as the ball came flying over towards the goal, they came in with arms and legs flailing to knock me to the floor.
And I couldn’t have been happier.
- Dandi Patch and Dandi Patch Man. Buy online at www.dandipatch.com