I may not be as nimble on the feet as I was in my sporting heyday but they still talk about the goal I once scored for the former Arsenal Soccer School Bahrain dads in a needle-match with much honour and glory at stake.
Not one to normally boast, it was Messi-like magic. I rounded the ’keeper and as the defence thought I had overrun the ball, I manoeuvred swiftly to back heel it into the net as the crowd (in my head) roared.
I picked up my trainers and came out of semi-retirement last Thursday afternoon to put my football skills to the test once more when hearing that City Centre Bahrain was offering ‘great World Cup moments’ to visitors.
The FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia have been full of thrills and spills, bonking mad decisions made thanks to the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee system, known as VAR, in football's first use of video technology.
Video technology is being used in a much more fun way at the football-themed stand located at City Centre Bahrain’s Central Galleria, offering mall visitors the chance to win instant prizes.
Now, normally, I would have taken my footballing hotshot son Stan Jnr, the Juventus Academy’s U16 captain, who I have long tutored in the garden to ensure I passed on my silky soccer skills. But, unfortunately, he’s currently crocked after picking up a niggling hip injury in a recent match.
It was down to dad. I sported my England World Cup jersey and cap and readied myself for the challenge ahead with photographer, Honey Sharma, at my side.
It’s a big screen technological challenge and the rules are simple. Hit the virtual reality ball at the moving target and pick up an instant prize.
“We’re had lots of winners already,” remarked Marieke Pandit, who was manning the stall. Although wearing a Spain top, the Indian expat with a touch of Portuguese descent, reckons Cristiano Ronaldo’s should have gone on to lift the title. Shame about that.
However, I was more interested in winning a prize from one of my favourite retailers.
I walked over towards the white line, knowing exactly how Chris Waddle felt when he put the ball into orbit from the penalty spot and put paid to England’s World Cup chances in 1990.
Marieke’s colleague, Syrian Hesham Sadeq, was helping challengers go for goal. He’s changed his allegiance from Germany, no doubt having foolishly read our reporter Kristian ‘The Voice of Sport’ Harrison’s pre-tournament prediction, and is now backing Brazil to go all the way.
I stood by the white line, steadied myself, and side footed the virtual ball forward and watched it pathetically limp under the target. ‘Try again’ came the message on the screen.
Hesham, full of enthusiasm and helpful advice, suggested I needed a little more swing, explaining how the leg ‘follow through’ would take it higher.
I leant back and gave it a mighty wallop and watched at the ball fly miles over the bar. “Better luck next time,” came the big screen message.
This was impossible, I thought, muttering oaths of despair under my breath.
Behind me, eight-year-old Jude Qamber, stepped forward and in one easy swing of her right foot hit the target and won the prize of a BD10 retailer’s voucher. Earlier winners had walked away with BD5 mall gift cards.
I wanted to scream in frustration … and then got offered the chance.
Inside a sound proof booth beside the electronic football shootout, customers are challenged to break the record of the longest ‘goal shout’.
Trying to impersonate one of those glorious South American football commentators, I gave it my best shot … ‘Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!’
My big gob managed to record a leading score at 12.79896, more than double fellow shopper Sabiya’s recorded time in second place. Honey shook his head, waving the Striker Game coupon at me like a demented referee, reckoning I’d be lucky to stay ahead of the game by the time they’d blown the whistle for half-time.
Still, everyone’s a winner at City Centre Bahrain. I walked away with a magical collection of Russian dolls, wearing an England kit. They were coming home with me to Janabiya.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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