3-0. The number of times I’ve been on the winning side with the NYC Pickup Soccer Group. I don’t put much stock into such records … but emerging victorious usually means you had a good game!
Prior to the match, there were enough omens to hint at a pleasant Saturday morning. My breakfast which consisted of fruit salad and two eggs was the right fuel I needed, for the physical excursion ahead.
With a satisfied stomach and high spirits, I stepped out into the street and was welcomed by a nice cool breeze which countered the sticky humidity that’s constant throughout New York summers.
The train ride to the park was uneventful, though I’ll remember a black lady whose eyes were greener than the $1 note I gave her.
At first glance, Annunciation Park does not strike one as much of a park. It consists of a church, playground and a small turf field surrounded by a miniature track. It’s location on W135th and Amsterdam Avenue also adds to a sense of spatial scarcity.
As is usual practise, I got set up with Mane, the onsite organiser who put me on the red team. A good omen indeed as I had won the previous meetup wearing that colour.
The good people who show up are mostly white, but other races are also represented. There was an Arab guy wearing the new Arsenal kit with Alexis printed on his back. I approved. A tall pony-tailed chap and a short, stubby ginger-beard were wearing Tottenham shirts, which I didn’t approve. Their poor taste didn’t ruin my pre-match warm-up, which involved juggling in my red Cavaliers shoes as cleats weren’t allowed.
For the opening minutes of the match, I started in goal and apart from letting a soft shot go past me, I distributed the ball with the accuracy you would expect from an outfield player. (Sorry goalkeepers union!)
Later on I played on the left side and ended up switching flanks. I noticed that our opponents were having difficulties when we’d stretch play to the wings, something that I’d ruthlessly exploit in the second period.
The game was tied 2-2 at the break, but we took an early lead in the second half thanks to yours truly. The ball was passed to me in space on the left and I lashed a low shot into the bottom corner.
The Arab guy wearing the Alexis shirt was a live wire. We combined well for a goal that would’ve had top scouts in Europe wagging their tongues.
The final whistle blew and both teams thanked each other for the game. On my way back home, I crawled underneath an SUV to retrieve my ball that I’d volleyed half a block wide.
The sun was at it’s Zenith as I walked back to 113th with 60 minutes of football under my belt. By all accounts a pleasurable outing at this most bizarre of parks.