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Tuesday, January 03, 2006


His friends stopped talking to him.
The barman shunned him. Well, more than usual at least. He was sure of it. His father made indistinct noises to himself and flicked the pages of his newspaper with vigour. Even his girlfriend mocked him in a way that was more cruel than playful.
His brother had run off with another man's wife. His best friend had been convicted of drink driving. His previous girlfriend had terminated her pregnancy. His mother had been abandoned by his father. And yet they had all been forgiven: only he was treated as an outcast. Only he had committed the greatest, the most unpardonable sin of all.
Only he had changed football teams.
If his father could divorce, if his girlfriend could shed an unwanted foetus, if his brother could endanger the lives of his drinking partners, why couldn't he ditch the one thing that caused him most misery in his life? But it didn't work like that. In football, once you'd made your choice, you had to stick with it through thick and thin. His father tried one night to explain, to talk about loyalty and learning about consequences of one's actions, about certain bonds that were unbreakable. "If you'd chosen City 20 years ago," his father said, "I'd have understood. I wouldn't have liked it, but I'd have understood. I'd even have taken you to your first game at Maine Road instead of Old Trafford, I'd have bought you those disgusting feeble blue shirts. I'd have got you Frannie Lee's autograph. But not this. Not now. You can't just swap teams like you swap girlfriends."
He'd never swapped a girlfriend. He'd never dream of thinking of it in such cold, black and white terms. And he told his father as such. Confusingly, his father thought this might be a sign that he was a homosexual.
"But I just don't like Ronaldo," he said. "Or Smith. Or Ferdinand. Or Silvestre. And I like City. They're honest."
His father looked him straight in the eye for the first time since he was 13. "Never talk to me about honesty ever again," he said. And truth be told, that was the last time they ever spoke about anything ever again.


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