Wrapped in thick coats and mufflers,
huddled together against the icy wind,
so close the pall of whiskey breath hung
like mist in the morning forest.
Players shivered onto the field in their short shorts,
sleeves of jerseys pulled down over hands,
clasped tightly to keep the chill out.
The guy next to me opened a thermos
and took a swig.
He offered it to me,
but it smelled more of whiskey than coffee;
I declined with a swift shake of the head.
A whistle blast echoed across the arena
and the men in blue began to dart hither and thither,
chased by white-shirted shadows,
scampering across the frost-rimed grass.
Conversation slows, as we watch.
A few derisory comments ring out
as the ball scuttles
back and forth across the field,
like a giant pinball table.
A man in blue tilts to the ground,
and the whistle blows.
Players gather and take partners
for a new dance,
awaiting a blast from the man in black
to signal their release.
Back on the terrace,
hip flasks and bottles materialise
from concealed pockets.
I notice a policeman,
purposefully heading towards us.
Tugging on my uncle’s sleeve,
I nod wordlessly toward the approaching peeler,
with worry in my eyes.
“It’s alright” he says,
“he’s just coming for a drink!”