Chapter 1 – Becoming One of the Team!
Davina, perhaps as her name implies, was, as we say in Scotland, a bonnie bonnie lass. She was ten years old, very pretty, had dimples when she smiled, and had long shiny black hair, which her Mum usually tied back in a pony tail. Mum’s excuse was that this would stop it getting in Davina’s eyes, but in reality, she was aware that Davina was a real tomboy at heart and she didn’t want to have to wash her hair every evening!
To explain, Davina didn’t play with the girls at their local Primary school – oh no! - she played with the boys, sometimes football, sometimes just fighting for the fun of it, and so on, and often by the time she got home from school, her uniform would be in such a mess her Mum would have to pop the whole lot in the washing machine and start from scratch the next day!
She did have her good points, it has to be said, and would run errands for neighbours if they ran out of things like bread, or milk, but even then, she didn’t walk sedately down the road, but belted down, sometimes wearing roller skates, and shouting at the top of her voice to any of her pals she saw on the way.
One day, at assembly, all the pupils were told that one of the teachers, Mr. Jackson, who played football in his spare time, had entered the school into a newly formed school football knock out competition, and that Mr. Jackson wanted all the good football players to stay after school so that he could choose a team. I don’t need to tell you which pupil was the most excited about this, and at break, told her little brother Stuart to let their mother know why she would be late getting home that day.
The school day dragged for the would be football players – after assembly, class registration; after class registration usually reading followed by a spelling test; after the spelling test, some arithmetic, could be fractions, or long division, or similar. When the bell finally rang to signal the end of the school day, Davina and about twenty boys all gathered in the school gym to find out which pupils would be chosen. The teacher, Mr. Jackson, didn’t really know Davina all that well, and assumed she was perhaps simply waiting for one of her brothers, but when he asked them all to line up, he was surprised that she joined in. The boys who were there, of course, did not seem in the least surprised, as she played with them every day. Mr.Jackson scratched his chin; what was he supposed to do? Were girls allowed to play football? He scratched his chin again, then thought perhaps she would be rubbish, and not good enough to be chosen.
You’ve probably guessed that this was not the case! She could kick the ball hard, she could head the ball, she could pass the ball, she could dribble the ball………all the things that a good football player had to do. Mr. Jackson’s chin got another scratching! He was confused! He had never seen a girl playing football as well as Davina, and obviously she would be an asset to their team! But she was girl! And she looked like a girl!! Eventually, he started to choose the team, eleven regular players and two reserves. At this point he thought Davina might be one of the reserves, but the other kids on the team weren’t having any of that, as they knew what a good player she was, and that she would be a great asset to the team. When the session was over, Davina was at the top of Mr. Jackson’s list. Oh dear! As he sent the kids off home, he decided the only thing to do was (a) speak to the headmaster, Mr. Robertson, about his dilemma, and (b) speak to Davina’s parents about perhaps having her beautiful black hair cut short so that she looked more like one of the boys!
Next day, as soon as school was over, Mr. Jackson went to the headmaster’s study and explained his dilemma. The headmaster quite understood, as in the six years that Davina had been in the school, he had had many a run-in with Davina – for kicking a ball in the corridor; for playing in the boys’ playground (rather than the girls’) at break; for carrying a football to school, and dribbling it along the corridor when the other kids were walking sedately two by two; and so forth and so on.
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Jackson,” he said, “I can’t suggest a way round this. Davina is undoubtedly a very talented player, and would be a great asset to your team. Perhaps we should ask the Education Department if they can advise us. I will do this in the morning, and in the meantime, I agree you should visit Davina’s home and have a chat with her parents.”
The very next day, right after school, Mr.Jackson found Davina’s address, and telephoned to arrange a meeting with her parents that evening. Davina’s family thought she was in trouble, and were quite anxious when they saw Mr. Jackson at their door. You can imagine their relief when he explained why he was visiting and that Davina had been chosen as one of the team to represent their school, but when he suggested that Davina’s long shiny black hair be cut very short so that she looked more like a boy, they were horrified. Mrs. Taylor (Davina’s Mum) in particular was adamant that there was no way they would cut Davina’s hair short – she spent a long time each day brushing and combing said hair till it shone and hung smoothly down Davina’s back, and all the family, aunts and uncles, cousins, grans and grandpas were all very proud of her looks and her beautiful hair. The only concession Mrs. Taylor would make was that Davina’s hair could be tied up in a ponytail so that it could not be blown over her face, making it more difficult to see.
Next day, Mr.Jackson was back in the headmaster’s study to report his lack of success. The headmaster, Mr. Robertson, in the meantime, had telephoned the Education Department, and sadly, had been told there was nothing in the rules which said anything about football teams having to be made up of only boys! They stared gloomily at one another, and finally decided that the only thing they could do was field at team of ten boys and one girl!!
The first match date soon arrived; it was a Saturday morning in a public park so that parents and friends from school could attend and cheer their team on. There were sixteen team entered, which made it easy for the authorities. The first round would eliminate eight teams, then the second a further four, then the third a further two and then there would be a final between the last two teams to see which would win the trophy which had been presented to the Education authorities by a well-known footballer who had, in his childhood, lived in the area.
At the very first match that Mr. Jackson’s team played, the manager of the other team questioned Mr. Jackson about a girl playing in the team, but he had brought a copy of the letter from the Education Department confirming that it would be fine to play a girl in the team, so the match went ahead. Though Davina’s team was a bit undisciplined, towards the end of the match, the score was still nil-nil, and it looked as though the match would have to go into extra time, but just then, Davina managed to trap a loose ball, and in no time flat was dribbling the ball right up the pitch towards the opponents’ goal, and to the roar of the crowd of supporters, gave the ball a hefty kick right into the corner of the net!! One-nil! Davina’s school had won! They were through the first round and into the second!!
Mr. Jackson decided that as the team was “on a high” as we say due to their success, he would get down to the nitty gritty, and start doing some serious practices with them so that they had a better chance in the next match, which would be in a week’s time!
Of course, as you may have heard said many a time, “the best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley”, and just before the second match was due to be played, Davina was sent to Mr. Robertson’s study for arguing with a teacher, and the teacher expected Davina to be given a strong punishment exercise, like being taken off the football team! Oh no! That could not happen! Mr. Jackson had spent hours planning strategy for the team mainly on the basis of Davina’s speed when dribbling the ball!
Back to Mr. Robertson’s study………………. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Robertson sat on either side of the room, staring gloomily at each other, and frantically seeking for a solution which would suit everybody – Davina, her class teacher, Mr. Jackson, and the school football team! Should she write out one hundred times in her best handwriting “I must not argue with my teacher!” – perhaps not strong enough, as she could do that at home any old time. Well, perhaps she could be kept in class after school? But no, that would not work either, as the football team practised after school! How about putting her in the girls’ playground to monitor the Primary One children, to make sure they didn’t get into any trouble with the older children? Well, knowing Davina, she would be the first to get into trouble, and would end up with more punishment exercises, or detention, or similar! Then Mr. Jackson had a superb idea! How about Davina having to write a long essay on her favourite sport – football! – and read it out at Assembly! Davina, for all that she was a great girl, hated to have to speak in public, whether it was simply reciting poetry which she had learned, or reading from a book. Great! That, they decided, was what she would do! She could do research in the evening in the local library, and both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Robertson were pretty sure that Davina’s mum, Mrs. Taylor, would be happy to take Davina to the local library to do the necessary research!
And that, dear readers, is exactly what happened, and in spite of it being a punishment exercise, Davina found that reading about the beginnings of football, its history, famous players of old, and amazing matches which had been held actually gave her a thrill, and she determined that she would try out some of the more complicated ways of kicking the ball, heading the ball, dribbling the ball, and so on!
Everyone was therefore satisfied! Davina’s teacher was impressed with the long essay which she had written; Mr. Jackson was impressed that Davina had taken the trouble to learn a few more ‘tricks of the trade’; Mr. Robertson was delighted that he didn’t need to ban Davina from the team, and the members of the team were all thrilled at the extra skills Davina had learned and brought to their team!
Needless to say, when the details of their second match were revealed, everyone from the headmaster down were all greatly anticipating that game, and keeping their fingers crossed that their team would get through to the next round!!