Every Friday, however unpleasant the weather that greats me as I step through my front door, clad in an assortment of frayed and tattered kit, I head toward the lights on the hill for an hour of six-a-side football. Outdoors, albeit on artificial grass, it is, nevertheless, a sufficiently accurate facsimile of the twenty years I spent playing local league football to connect me, through the worn sensory pathways and the yearning of nostalgia, to the mediocrity of my pomp.
It is a trope echoed all too frequently in the middle age of our heroes too. Success, wealth, damage, offer little protection against the pull of those lights.
The sounds, the smells, the discomfort of effort, of physical contact. The pursuit of something, the thrill of a sliding tackle made or a goal scored is like a tuning fork being struck. To feel vibrant, alive, present, important, capable, however fleeting, for those moments here and there, tantalises, deceives. It permits the idea I could, if I chose to, return to that same village football I left a decade ago and compete just as I had in my 20s and 30s.
I’ll be 47 in July. For context, its true I’m fitter than many of my contemporaries, but chase a 20 year old winger? Leap above a 30 year old? Out last a teenager over 90 minutes? [Whisper it so I can’t hear] No.
Sergio Martinez, 44, and an illustrious champion at 154 and 160 pounds plans to box again. A small card in Madrid, Spain on June 6th the target. He’ll be 45 by then. And six years retired.
I imagine he smelt the leather, bounced on the canvas, squinted into a mirror at his trim muscular frame and unmarked features and felt a similar connection to a bygone self to the one I pay £5 a week to embrace, if only for an hour.
I understand. I wish him no harm. He had a peak most of us amateur weekend warriors can never touch after all.
But recapture all that was evidently fading when he was battered by Miguel Cotto? Just like me, and the fairytales of my Friday night football, he’s badly mistaken.
Of course, the bitterest truth within the story of his return, is that a prize ring is a much harsher reality check than this 40 something could ever subject his own fantasy to.
Sergio wont be the first to try of course, nor the last.