Some years ago, in an earlier life (see You can hide, but you can’t run), I was a footballer playing for a minor league side in England, when my boss told me to throw a match. I didn’t. That upset the O’Grady gang, who had bet a lot of money on the 3-2 result that they didn’t get. While hiding from them, I had a bit of luck on the lottery, which allowed me to have surgery to change my appearance, establish a new identity and relocate to New Zealand. Once there, I found work that eventually led to my being appointed head coach for a semi-pro team, and visiting coach for a number of schools. I knew things had to change when a new senior at one of the schools where I was coaching said that his step-dad thought my playing style looked familiar. His step-dad was Brien O’Grady.
I couldn’t remain around there. The O’Gradys are well-known for their long memories, and their ability to hold on to grudges; across the generations, if necessary. I had to move again, rather hurriedly. But to where?
Wherever I went, I would need to earn a living, and the only way I knew to do that was through football. Football had always been my life. Football was all I knew. Australia was out of the question for two reasons: 1. The O’Gradys would easily have found me, especially since they now know my new name, and 2. Australian rules football? I mean, seriously!
I thought about many places. I looked at where English-speaking footballers were playing, which narrowed the choice down to a handful of countries in western Europe. I then thought about languages. I learned some French at school; okay, that was a long time ago, but I thought I’d be more likely to pick up French, where I have some background, than I would German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, where I have none. France it was, then. Entry was no problem, as I hold a valid UK passport, which guarantees me the right to live and work in all the EU, including France. The question was, where in France.
According to the web, the region least likely to have residents related to the O’Gradys was probably one of the central ones; most British and Irish nationals seemed to settle in the north and south of the country. I chose the Auvergne, bang in the middle. Football was big around its capital, Clermont-Ferrand. Not as big as rugby, but the city did boast a moderately successful league 2 team where I hoped I might be able to help out.
No, don’t hang up, please.
Look. I’m a good coach; my record shows that; and this whole sorry mess started because I wouldn’t go along with match-fixing. These days, I’d be called a whistle-blower and get a pat on the back, but things were different back then. And it’s too late for me to do anything about it now.
So, what do you think? Can you put in a good word for me, David? I’d be very grateful, and I promise I wouldn’t let you down.
What’s that? No, I’m not tied to Clermont, or to France.
Yes, I’d be prepared to move, provided I could be safe from the O’Grady gang.
Why not? Yeah.
Okay, I’ll see you in Paris tomorrow morning.
Thanks, David; you won’t regret it.
This short story was written in response to Kreative Kue 8, issued on this site a few days ago.