THE MATCH: WIZARDS FC v HARINGEY ATHLETIC, 2008
WORDS: EWAN FLYNN
ILLUSTRATION: MILLIE CHESTERS
Matthew Berou was a Wizards FC institution. We had played alongside each other in school and Sunday League teams for as long as I could remember. A fellow Harry Potter enthusiast, Matt had backed me when I suggested our magical team name upon joining the Edmonton and District Sunday Football League.
He was an outstanding right-back who loved defending. Very much of the old school, his boots were always black with minimal design gimmickry. Matt viewed the term ‘wing-back’ as a dirty bastardisation of the noble art of defending he had practised his whole life. If he ever crossed the halfway line, Matt resembled a learner swimmer who had somehow found himself in the deep end when the wave machine was switched on. He would frantically back-pedal to the shallows of our own half.
While Matt’s instincts played a massive part in our defensive solidity, it limited his chances for personal goal-scoring glory. Whenever we won a corner, Matt was stationed on the halfway line to ward off any counter-attacks. In the hundreds of games we had played together, the name Matthew Berou had never appeared on the scoresheet. This particularly irked Matt; season after season, he lovingly compiled a meticulously colour-coded spreadsheet recording the details of every game we played.
Essentially, the only way he could ever score would be from a penalty. It would need to be in a game where we were so emphatically ahead that we could risk Matt taking it.
This scenario had actually dawned three years previously. In a match where we were seven goals to the good, the ref pointed to the spot. I used all of my authority as captain to manoeuvre Matt into position. I must confess that this came from a sense of curiosity as to how he would approach taking a spot-kick as much as it did from benevolence towards my oldest friend. On that occasion, Matt scuffed his shot so badly that the ball bounced about eight times during its anaemic twelve-yard journey from penalty spot to goalkeeper’s hands. It seemed Matt was destined never to score a goal.
Then, finally, the circumstance arose again: in injury time of an Edmonton Division 2 game against Haringey Athletic, when the points were already in the bag, the ref blew for a penalty.
Immediately a cry went up from the touchline where manager Andy stood. “Let Berou have it!” Matt stepped forward with the confidence of someone who had spent the intervening three years practising in his bedroom for this very moment. He clinically dispatched the ball into the bottom corner of the net, sparking wild scenes of celebration where everyone in an orange Wizards shirt, subs and management piled onto the pitch and on top of him. This caused much bafflement among the Haringey Athletic players who just wanted to get home for their Sunday dinner.
Matthew Berou was christened BeRooney and was never allowed anywhere near a penalty ever again.
Ewan Flynn has written a book, on his Sunday League adventures: We Are Sunday League. Take a look, here.