Injury scars create our own true sporting hero

Just before noon on Sunday, my eldest son, Jed, was diving at the legs of another 15-year-old and took a smack in the face that laid him out for a couple of seconds.

That’s rugby.

He was playing flanker for Casuals under-15s. Flankering is a rough, tough world when you are learning your trade.

There is an element of ‘Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto You’ about it.

Jed stood up feeling that he had definitely learned something the hard way, but was not sure what.

He was promptly hauled off the pitch.

His nose was fizzing and he needed to recover, but he was still surprised not to be let back on.

He couldn’t see the blood trickling from his eye or the start of the swelling on the bridge of his nose.

I had been watching Billy playing for the Under 9s and I arrived at the scene late.

Jed looked a bit spaced out but he was walking and talking so I was satisified I would not be taking a completely broken child home to My One True Love.


At this point, a peculiar kind of fatherly pride kicked in. It was Shiner Pride.

It’s very difficult to describe this without sounding like a complete monster.

Of course I wasn’t pleased he was hurt, but you get treated like royalty at a rugby club after a decent injury.

It is like a rite of passage. Your story gets told to others after the game.

The other dads come up to admire the damage.

Everyone laughs at how much trouble he is going to be in with his mum.

That’s how My One True Love deals with the twinge of anxiety she gets about her sons playing a contact sport.

They do not have her permission to get injured.

She took Jed to casualty after lunch and it turned out his tear duct was torn and his collar bone was unattached.

He was crying blood: vampire fangirls please form an orderly queue.

We hadn’t reckoned with the collar bone.

Injury bonus.

The doctor insisted Jed’s eye should be operated on and a consultant was mobilised on Sunday afternoon.


He told Jed most of the Saints players had been through the same experience and Jed was naturally delighted. The commonplace miracle of the NHS swung into action.

It could have been worse but Jed couldn’t have handled it better.

Later that evening he was at home with a celebratory McDonald’s on the table in front of him, watching Sports Personality of the Year with one eye.

Earlier in the day we had been debating who might win.

I had been arguing for Wiggo, but by the time he got it, my new sporting hero of the day was sitting in the kitchen with me.

The Cobblers striker, Adebayo Akinfenwa, was featured in an interview in Zoo magazine last week.

I don’t follow football that closely, but Bayo is an iconic player for Northampton and happens to be ranked as the World’s Strongest Footballer.

He is 16 stone and was clearly meant to be a rugby player, but that is by the by.

What is fascinating is that the accolade of World’s Strongest Footballer has been acquired as a result of his statistics in the Fifa 13 video game.

My boys play it. All their friends play it. They play against each other online. It’s massive. Most of the professional players in the world are rated and ranked as part of the game.

You can create your own fantasy teams. There is even an electronic trading card element which completely bewilders me. They pay real money for imaginary trading cards.

But being the World’s Strongest Footballer in this imaginary world has had a real effect on Adebayo’s life. He is doing photoshoots in magazines because of it.

He has a cult following among football fans, actually he already did but this doesn’t hurt.

From his pictures I don’t doubt that he deserves the honour, but it shows how surreal life can be for a footballer these days.

Bayo is a forward of course. If you’re looking for a winger I always wondered whether Sonic the Hedgehog could have cut it...