The Blighty Report, Vol 3

Sat, 5 Mar 2004 20h

Dear Nooners,

For the very few of you who lie awake at night tormented by the question "What has been (Zi)Dan up to in the last year or so?", today is your lucky day because the (more-or-less) yearly Blighty Report is here.

The Oxford episode of my footballing career is drawing to a close in its third season, as Monday I move to Birmingham, where I have taken a new job. No, contrary to rumours, it is not as a pro with local (still) Premiership powerhouse West Brom, but as a lecturer with Univ. of Birmingham. Just to clarify: the talented Romanian footballer recently signed by West Brom was not me, but former international Cosmin Contra. (and he wasn't signed, he was released).

As you certainly remember from my past reports my first season here was a qualified success but the second was almost a disaster. Only a guest appearance in the Grad League (and a brilliant pass from Scott) last spring prevented me from going an entire season without scoring a goal for the first time since playing organised football. This third season, in contrast, was a triumph.

The foundation was laid, as is usually the case, in the off-season. I am not talking hard work, training, etc, I am talking changing teams. At the not-so-subtle suggestion of the management the 'older' and 'less fit' and 'slow' players of the second team were encouraged to transfer to the third team, which about 4 or 5 of us did. Another 3 or so felt offended and quit the club altogether. It was their loss, as the move worked brilliantly to the advantage of both teams involved.

Indeed, the significantly slower pace of the third team, who plays in a division so low that I lose count (5th? 7th? who care anymore?) greatly suited my style of play. The second smart move was to change positions from midfield to attack: the combination of short bursts of running and long bouts of walking typical of a (lazy) striker turned out to suit my abilities much better than the constant running interrupted only by the occasional sprint of the midfielder.

The only down-side was that as a striker I was much more often a target of the maniacal lunges which pass for tackles around here. As a result I was out several times with various injuries. But although my quantitative contribution was smaller than usual, the quality could not be contested. I will not bore you with tall tales about match-winning goals or the back-to-back hat-trick. Let me just say that my team-mates almost changed their minds about me being nicknamed 'ZiDan' as something exceedingly hilarious. Regrettably, my imminent move will stop me from fully restoring my reputation.

So this may be the best time to retire. To be honest, I did not find football in England as pleasant as in Canada. In Canada it's a summer game played on weekday afternoon. Here it's a winter game played on weekend mornings. Sometimes playing in the wind, rain, mud and against hungover and grumpy opposition can be trying. No wonder 11-a-side recreational football is in somewhat of a decline. Maybe I'll join a summer league for 6-a-side football instead, the fastest growing recreational sport in the UK. Who knows? You will! But not until the next Blighty Report!

Toodle pip!

Dan 'ZiDan' Ghica