RICHARD ORD: Flagging up an issue of little importance

Linesman by Robert Gale.
Linesman by Robert Gale.

Scatterflag (verb): The instant dispersal of dads at junior football matches when approached by a coach holding a flag looking for someone to be linesman. Eg. “Quick everyone scatterflag, they’re after a linesman.”

As I mentioned last week, dictionary compilers are always looking for new words to help flog their books and ‘scatterflag’ is one of mine.

Anyone who has children in junior football knows only too well the joys of ‘running the line.’If you take pleasure in being verbally abused by all and sundry I recommend it.

With two sons playing football, I’ve had to invent numerous tactics to get out of being linesman.

The secret is to always keep your eye out for the referee arriving five minutes before kick off holding the dreaded flags. All too often, the inexperienced parent can take his eye off the ball (or in this case, the flag). They can get embroiled in conversation and do not see the coach heading across the pitch, flag in hand. Before they know it, they have the flag thrust in their mitts and have to suffer 35 minutes each way of ignorant bile (A further 15 minutes slander and questions about their parentage if it goes to extra time).

The experienced dad will be on alert at all times.

“Who wants a coffee?” is a good shout. Make your offer just as the coach begins his walk across the pitch, and you can be off to sort drinks for the fans before he arrives.

It can be an expensive business, however.

The fake phone call is a Sunday morning favourite. Quickly thrust your mobile phone to your ear and look earnest. As the coach approaches, become more animated. Speak loudly. Use urgent phrasing. “Is it serious? Do you need me now? I can be there is 10 minutes.”

Don’t overdo it though. “Are there many dead?” and “Did they shoot the lion” will only draw attention.

What is beyond the pale, however, are the parents who stay in their cars and roll up two minutes into the game. That’s not on. It’s disrespectful and shows a lack of class.

Me? I always carry a full leg plaster cast in the car and a couple of crutches. Clip the cast on and limp into the ground. If anyone approaches, just hold up your hands and say “don’t ask.”

If you do have to run the line it pays to have a ready retort to any criticism from the sidelines. “Oi, lino, are ye blind?” “How did you miss that one?” and the fans’ favourite (first coined by Oscar Wilde in 1876) “Should’ve gone to Specsavers.”

My response is to inform them that: “Offside officiating errors are optically inevitable given that human beings are incapable of accurately detecting an offside position quickly enough to make a timely decision because it’s not possible to keep all the relevant players in the visual field at once.” Usually does the trick. Or if I’m in a hurry: “Shut it, you cackminder. Yes, cackminder. Look it up.”

Cackminder isn’t in the dictionary, yet, but I’m working on it. Needless to say, its definition can’t be printed in a family newspaper.