J’s Football Diary

14th July 2015

My name is J.
My friends ask me if J is short for a longer name. It is not. It is just J.
I am six years old and I live with my Granny in a small town in Ghana. We are not rich but we eat well. My Granny is a good cook. Granny always says – “you are what you eat”. This is odd because I am not a yam or a plantain and we eats a lot of those.
I go to school but I am not the best at reading. I don’t like to spend too much time inside. I prefer to play football and I am the best at football. I can run fast and I can kick the ball well. I score lots of goals.
The best team in the world is Chelsea. They play at Stamford Bridge in London. London is in England. Last year they came top. We can watch them on TV in our town. I like the way they play. They are hard to beat. They also score lots of goals.
The best player at Chelsea is Oscar. He is from Brazil. Like me he plays on the wing because he is a fast runner. Sometimes he plays in the mid-field. So, sometimes I also ask to play there.
A man came to our school and watched us play. He spoke to me after the game and said he liked the way I booted the ball. This was strange, as I do not have any boots. I told him so and he said I was as sharp as mustard. What is mustard?
After the man had gone, the teacher called me over and she said that the man had come from Chelsea. He was going to schools in Ghana to see who was good at football. She asked me if I would like to go to London and meet up with some of the Chelsea players.
This is what I want most in the whole world!

28th July 2015

My teacher has now told me that I have been chosen to go to London. I will stay for two or three days with the man who saw me play football. His name is Mr Roy and he is one of the coaches at Chelsea. He lives in London with his wife. Her name is Mrs Roy. He is going to take me to the training ground and I can watch the players kick the ball around. If I am lucky, I will meet Oscar. I am very happy.


12th August 2015

The trip to London cannot happen until next March. This is a long time to wait but they are very busy at Chelsea with the new season. My Roy has sent me a message to keep my head down and work hard at practice. I am confused. If I keep my head down all the time I cannot see the goal. But I will practice a lot. By the time I go to London I will be even better than I am now.


12th March 2016

I will soon be leaving for London so my Granny went with an old friend to the market. She bought me a blue T-shirt and blue shorts. They are not the same blue as Chelsea wears, but they are like it. She also bought me some shoes, as it can be wet in London.
Granny says I am going to fly to London in an airplane. I have never been on an airplane. Granny says birds and angels can fly because they have wings. Then she shakes her head and looks down. I have told her that the plane has wings too.
I was asked how I felt about leaving my Granny and going to London. I am sad to be leaving Granny but glad to be going to London. I am more glad than sad.


17th March 2016

I am now in London. The plane was big and it made a lot of noise. I sat in a seat and there was soft carpet on the floor. Someone gave me some food to eat and a plastic fork and spoon. The food tasted funny and was not like the food Granny cooks. The best bit was the candy bar at the end. I loved this so much. The lady sitting in the seat next to me gave me hers, as well.
Mr Roy was at the airport to meet me and we shook hands. We then got in his car and he took me to his home. London is very big and it took a long time to get there. There were so many cars on the road. Mr Roy kept saying we were in a jam. He lives in a very big town called Brentford, that is part of London.
He stopped the car and said we were home. I looked through the window but could not see a home. We got out of the car and walked towards a tall building. A lady opened the door and smiled at me. Mr Roy said this was his wife, so I said “hello Mrs Roy” and held out my hand. She laughed and gave me a hug. She told me her name was not Roy but Rita and I was to call her Rita.
Rita took me by the hand and said my bedroom was up the stairs. I have never seen stairs before. She took me up and we walked into a huge room. I asked who else would sleep there. She said no one, just me. I have never slept in a room on my own before.
There was a bed too. At home in Ghana, Granny and I sleep on a mattress on the floor.
On the bed was the best thing ever. It was a Chelsea shirt and shorts. Rita held the shirt up for me and on the back was my name – J. I asked if I could put it on and she said yes. She also gave me a new pair of football boots, the first I have ever had. She told me to come down when I was ready.
When I came down the stairs, the door at the bottom was closed. There was a scratching noise behind it and a funny sound. Who was making that noise? I was scared. I did not know what was behind the door. I knew I had to be brave and so I tapped on the door.
I heard Mr Roy shout something and he opened the door. A black and white dog jumped up at me and licked my face. He was lovely. Mr Roy introduced me to Harry and told me he was a sheepdog. I asked him where were the sheep and he laughed and said I was a joker. What is a joker?
Rita asked me if I would like to play with Harry outside and I said I would like that very much. She took me to the back of the house and opened a door. Outside, there was a field with green grass. In Ghana there is no grass. There was a football in the middle of the field.
Rita told me that Harry was good at football. I called him and he came with me, jumping up at me as we went. I ran for the ball and kicked it. Harry chased after it. He was very fast and he could run with the ball between his front paws. He dribbled the ball back to me. He then left it in front of me and barked. I ran with the ball and he tried to tackle me. He was good at tackling and I fell over the top of him. Mr Roy came out and called “Foul”. This meant I got a free kick and I booted the ball up the pitch for Harry to chase. We played like this for the rest of the day. It was the best day ever.
Rita called us in and said that dinner was ready. She told me we were having Shepherd’s Pie. I asked Mr Roy if there was a real shepherd in the pie but he just laughed. It tasted good.
Mr Roy told me that the next day we would go and practice with the Chelsea youth team. I asked if Oscar would be there, but Mr Roy said “No”, as he is not a youth.
After dinner I was very tired and Rita said it was time for bed. She asked me if I would be happy on my own. I was not scared but said it would be nice if Harry could sleep with me. She said she thought that Harry would like that very much and she took me upstairs. Harry lay down on the bed next to me and I stroked his thick fur until I fell asleep.


18th March 2016

The next day we set off for the Chelsea training ground. Mr Roy said this was in the country, in a place called Cobham. I asked if Harry could come too. Mr Roy said that the club had a “no dogs” rule, but that as he worked there, it would be okay, so long as Harry stayed in the car.
Mr Roy said we would be going to soccer school. I said that was the sort of school I really liked. He laughed. Mr Roy laughs a lot.
In the morning, we did a lot of practice. We ran up and down with the ball and dribbled between small posts. Then we practiced heading the ball. We also did shooting the ball at a goalie. I scored a lot of goals.
During the lunch break, Mr Roy let me take Harry for a walk, but I had to keep him on his lead.
After that we got to play. Teams were picked and we played against other teams. My team did well and I scored six goals in total. Once I was tripped up in the penalty box and I could hear Harry barking in the car. He does not like it when someone fouls me.
On the way back I fell asleep on Harry. He woke me up and covered my face in wet licks when we were home.
That night, Mr Roy asked me if I would like to go to THE MATCH the next day. Chelsea is playing West Ham. He told me this was called a local derby. He said I would be in the dug out with him and if I liked I could have the job of water boy. This means that if a Chelsea player is injured, I need to run onto the pitch, and take him a bottle of water.
Harry was sitting next to me and he raised his paw and put it on my knee. I could see that he wanted to go as well. So I asked Mr Roy if Harry could come. He said yes but only if I kept him on his lead.
I went upstairs and climbed into bed. Rita came in to say goodnight and asked me why I was still wearing my Chelsea kit. I told her I wanted to be ready for the match. It has been a great day.
I could not sleep. I was so happy and I could not stop thinking about the game the next day. Harry felt the same way, I could tell. He kept lifting his head up and looking at me. I told him it would be all right.


19th March 2016

We arrived at Stamford Bridge early and I was holding Harry on his lead. It was to be a twelve o’clock kick off. Mr Roy showed me to the dug out and gave me 12 small bottles of water. He told me again that if a Chelsea player was injured, I had to run onto the pitch and give him a bottle.
The players came out and Oscar was there. He was going to play on the wing. I looked around and there was a huge crowd. Most people were dressed in blue or had blue scarves or hats. They waved blue flags and they cheered all the Chelsea players. Oscar got the biggest cheer because he is the best.
West Ham won the toss and the game started. I was waiting for a Chelsea player to be injured but West Ham was on the attack. They were passing the ball around and keeping it away from Chelsea. It was a West Ham player who was fouled and he fell over. This meant that West Ham had a free kick and they tried to score a goal.
I heard Mr Roy say that Oscar was having a quiet game. He was, but that was because no one had passed him the ball.
It was still nil all after half an hour when Oscar came back into his own half, and stole the ball from a West Ham player. He set off on a run, dribbling the ball between his legs. He took on one player and beat him on the outside and then cut inside another. He was just outside the penalty box when the left back from West Ham tackled him and brought him down.
I shouted “foul” and so did all the Chelsea fans and then I saw that Oscar was rolling about on the grass holding his leg. He was in great pain. Mr Roy told me to take him water at once and I rushed out onto the pitch as fast as I could go.
It was only as I got to him and looked down at my hands that I saw I had left the bottle of water in the dug out. I looked about me. Oscar was lying on the ground holding his leg and moaning in pain. He needed his water now but I did not have it. The crowd was waiting for me to give Oscar the bottle of water. What should I do? I looked back at the dug out and running towards me across the pitch was Harry.
I should not have let go of his lead or I should have tied him up. There was a dog on the pitch at Stamford Bridge and he was in my charge. I felt awful. But then I noticed he had something in his mouth. What was it? He was running straight towards me and as he got closer I saw it. He was holding a bottle of water in his mouth.
I took the water from him and passed it to Oscar who drank it down, all in one go. And then I heard it. The whole crowd had risen to their feet and were clapping Harry and me. They were cheering me for giving Oscar some water. This is what it must be like to play for Chelsea and this is what I want to do when I grow up.

Lee Goldsmith


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