By Sabeel Hazir
I am stirred from my slumber by the gentle and melodic songs of the birds perched on the ledge of my bedroom window, rays of sunlight creeping in through drawn curtains making my eyes squint to adjust to the sudden brightness. I have breakfast brought to me in bed by my loving wife and I sit upright to stretch and prepare to tackle the day. Alas this is but a dream, which is disturbed when I am woken up by the blaring of my alarm clock and although it is a warm day, this is Scotland and the sun rarely ever shines over us here.
I snooze my alarm and get up, the first time I have woken up at 7 am since March. In fact, this is the first day in four months I have woken up with any sense of purpose. For you see, today I shall be going back to work for the first time since the global pandemic caused lockdown measures to be implemented in my beautiful city (in spirit not in appearance) of Glasgow. We still have certain restrictions but now they are manageable to a point at which certain aspects of day to day life can begin again.
What is my profession I hear you not ask me? Well, I am a shaper of young minds tasked with imparting wisdom and skills onto the leaders of tomorrow. I am a children’s football coach or as it is known in my home country of Pakistan, a “games teacher”. I brush my teeth, get washed, have a light breakfast, put on my kit, and head out to meet my fellow coaches at the pitch to prepare todays session. I have a 45-minute walk ahead of me, which was no problem pre-lockdown but now, well it seems rather tedious and boring. I open the Uber app on my phone and contemplate being lazy just one more day as I have been all of lockdown.
Uberx between 8-12 pounds… it is a lovely day for a walk after all. The streets are busier these last few weeks, people finally being able to go back to their places of work, today I too shall be joining the active work force. I listen to the latest tracks I have downloaded on Spotify, some of which have only been released in the past couple of months. I guess art always finds a way, a pandemic is not going to stop record labels from churning out hits, no business like show business they do say.
I get to the pitch and see my fellow coaches all decked out in our work gear; my excitement grows at finally being to work with them again.
We exchange greetings and catch up with one another briefly, although it is strange not being able to shake their hands, but we do have guidelines to follow. We begin setting up the session, erecting goals and arranging cones, laying out bibs, the usual. In fact, it feels as though nothing has changed. Everything gets set up so smoothly and efficiently you would imagine that we had not had a single day off. We still have 30 minutes till we begin and about 15 before parents start dropping off kids for the first session.
This is where we are acutely remined that this is not just another session. We go over the protocols regarding social distancing between us and the children, protocols regarding dispensing of hand sanitizer, protocols regarding bathroom usage, and a whole list of other new regulations. It is all for safety and I respect that, however that stark reminder of the situation the world finds itself in brings me back down to earth. What was I so excited for walking to the pitch? How foolish I was to believe this was me going back to work, this was me going to something resembling work, surely this would not be the same experience.
I begin to think whether it’s worth it, I mean WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT of having football back if it’s not football the way we are used to having it? Sounds of laughter break me out of my revere, unmistakably the laughter of children. I turn to see them with parents in tow gleefully making their way over to us, some of them I recognize, and some are perhaps new. They all have their kits on, water bottles in hand, boots and shin guards at the ready. They see us and can barely contain their smiles and you can see them bubbling over with excitement. They are just brimming with joy to be able to play football with their friends again and it reminds you of why you fell in love with the game to begin with. Ah, so that is the point.