I am all smiles today and for one simple reason: this morning, Junito absolutely wanted nothing to do with the broom. Nope, he sprung out of bed, ran to the closet, picked out the soccer ball, and woke me via the traditional “ball hits head” approach. It’s much more effective than an alarm clock.
Perhaps as a young father, I overreacted to the ever slightly changing preferences of a toddler? Nevertheless, I speculate that the trip to the motherland helped reignite his passion to be Madrid’s greatest player. Plus, we got a little help from the Lazytown’s protagonist Sporticus. Junito saw this bastion of masculinity kicking a soccer ball and knew it was okay for half anglo saxons to play this sport, even though it only marginally involves butting shoulders and grabbing at other males. The Backyardigans also had a wicked and trippy soccer monster episode.
My initial reaction was obviously warm and streaming tears of joy. I immediately thought – there is a Jesus, he loves me, and he guides Junito inexorably towards Real Madrid greatness. Or something like that. Plus, on top of Junito’s first career resurrection, during a vicious short side game, Junito landed his first proper tackle. Am I dreaming? Don’t wake me up!
We were kicking around, along with my four year old aspiring doctor daughter, Angie, when suddenly the game switched to keep away. Angie, who has a serious height advantage, used all of her weight to shield off and taunt Junito. Did Junito let his guard down? Did Junito give up and go crying to mommy? Nein.
Instead, Junito backed off, regained his balance, and anticipated Angie’s dribble. He then got stuck in magnificently, knocking away the ball and sending Angie into a fall-less stumble. Don’t worry, neither child was hurt. But Junito is a striker, you recall. A striker getting stuck in? Exactly.
The modern game, with goalscoring centerbacks and galloping wingbacks, requires a collective commitment to defense. I am not teaching him the dark art of the catenaccio…yet. Basically, Junito needs to drop back to support the midfield and suck forward the opposition’s defensive line. And picking a few pockets from time-to-time should boost his goalscoring stats.
While the modern club game has a fluid aspect, one cold, hard, black & white question remains: which national team will call Junito captain? Right now, he has a claim to three different sides, all with pros and cons. Nicaragua did quality for the last Gold Cup, but the World Cup is a long shot. And while I love George Best, I don’t want Junito to supplant him as the greatest player never to play on the sport’s biggest stage.
Mexico and the US, thus, are the prime candidates. And I’m sure Junito will add some picante seasoning to the already steaming rivalry. I’ve already taught him the art of the bilingual trashtalk, whereby you say awful things to the opposition in one language and feign ignorance to the ref in another. But regardless of which team he plays for, Junito seems destined to face a Madin Mohammad-led France in the final.
The kid has a lot of talent:
Despite mad footskills, some questions pop into my head. The most glaring issue is his character. They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and what parents would have the utter lack of tact to put videos of their child on Youtube? At least have the common decency to use Vimeo or Rutube.
Also, and more importantly, I believe in respecting the opponent without putting them on a pedestal. Positive visualization is crucial, so whenever I get anxious about the inevitable Junito-Madin showdown, I think of this image…
The game: World Cup Final. The location: Mexico City, Mexico. The score: 0-0. The time on the clock: 76th minute. The US/Mexico gets a corner kick which Junito nods but tragically hits off the post. Raymond Domenech, still the France coach, screams for a counter. The ball is swiftly played to Madin in space, courtesy of a lovely weighted ball from Lilian Thuram’s grandson, known as Lilianito.
The crowd stands on their feet, puts away their toothbrushes, and anticipates brilliance. Madin takes a touch, lifts his head, and then, crack, the sound of bones crunching echoes throughout the stadium. Roy Keane, watching from home, turns his head away from the television in disgust. The commentators drop their jaws in disbelief.
Junito has just broken Madin’s metatarsal, ACL, and hip flexor in one double-studs up moment of insane beauty.
The crowd holds a collective silence as Madin is carted off the field on a stretcher, his vital signs weak. Junito is blue carded (a double red in 21st century FIFA rules) and sent to an early shower. As he walks to the tunnel, a cascade of boos showers over him, but Junito, of Aztec warrior blood, defiant as a Cuauhtemoc Blanco, knows about human sacrifice and smiles as he marches. He faces a mere lifetime ban, and with 21st century implanted robotrotic legs, he’ll be back on the field for the 2210 World Cup. A blink of an eye.
On the sideline, Raymond Domenech loses his mind. More so. He has already used his three changes, subbing on David Terezeguet, then subbing him off, and then subbing him back on again. Despite the man advantage, the US/Mexico does not exactly dominate but does hold on until spotkicks. David Terezeguet clangs his shot off the post, and…
Well, you get the picture. I also want your input on which side Junito should call his own.