For Bonnie

8 May

You came to us on a Tuesday.

As the world turned its head towards a bad man’s comeuppance and the clashing of Iberian footballing titans,

We watched you take your first breaths

In splendid isolation.

You played hard, you did.

Like a Greek defence, locked and stubborn,

You made your mother work

But the reward was more magical than the miracle of Lisbon itself.

After thirty-eight exhausting hours we held you in our arms and cried

The most joyous of cries.

I’m sitting here watching you sleep.

Content in your own innocence.

You occasionally scratch your nose, heave a sigh.

You gurgle and crave your mother’s milk.

Unaware of your daddy’s other great love,

You have no concept of the eternal magic

Of twenty-two men hustling and bustling

Up and down a carpet of green.

Of the multitude of faces that cheer them on.

The grizzled, the youthful, the spiteful, the fresh.

Of the enduring fascination of Saturdays spent in front of a television watching other men

Watching a television.

Of the kits and the friendships

And the chips and the laughs.

As you embark upon your journey

(Should you make the choice to immerse yourself in this world that so occupies your father’s heart and mind),

I want to offer you an apology.

Whatever team you decide to hold dear will



Provide you with heartache.

You’ll go to bed in tears from time to time,

Dreading the jeers and taunts from others

Belonging to other tribes.

They’ll let you down, your team.

Players that you idolise will drift away to other clubs

Lured by the promise of success and financial reward.

You’ll curse them and swear your love is dead.

And you’ll hate me for selfishly initiating you into this most self-punishing

Of pursuits.

But before you do that,


Should you emulate your old man in an abiding love for this game

And more specifically for a club in North London, N17,

You’ll feel that you belong somewhere.

I’ll show you where you came from as I hold your little hand

And you pore over the matchday programme,

Your fingers greasy and smudging the paper.

As we pass your grandmother’s house,

(The place where your dad grew up,

streets away from where your great-grandparents made their home),

You’ll breathe in the same air that the generations that came before you did.

Wrapped up in a scarf of blue and white,

Your nose red and peering through the warmth

Of a bobble hat,

You’ll tread the same path that I did.

And through this you’ll travel back to the immigrant’s toil.

His loss of his roots and his hope for his children.

He finally succeeded.

“Wrong team,” he’d say of course.

But “these things even themselves out”,

The cliché goes

(Prepare yourself for loads of those).

Maybe it’s destiny that we’ll re-live the fabulous rivalry of N5 versus N17?

You’ll choose that lot instead of mine.

Or like your mother, (both Kentish girls),

You’ll tie your colours to the red of Manchester,

Scoffing prawn sandwiches together.

Either way I’d love you just the same.

But I’d rather your beautiful voice sang

The Glory Glory of Tottenham Hotspur than that of Manchester United.

After all, I can’t afford to take you up the M6

Every two weeks

On a humble teacher’s wage.


There’s another thing you’ll come across.

No matter what they tell you at school,

However many isosceles triangles they get you to protract

Or Shakespeare sonnets they get you to recite

There’s nothing they can teach you about life that this beautiful game of ours can’t.

Take my word for it. I know these things.

You’ll come across swindlers and crooks who will test your very faith.

You’ll see acts of camaraderie and selfless humanity

As people you’ve never met before will dance with you in thronging streets

Celebrating those fleeting moments of exquisite celebration.

You’ll be bored mindless;

Unable to keep your eyes open as the tedium of the mid-table clash ticks along monotonously

On your screen.

You’ll laugh at the tantrums and verbal cacophony

Of braggarts and showmen.

You’ll be mesmerised and dazzled by exhibitions

Of outrageous skill that will leave you

Shaking your head in disbelief

Crying with the sheer beauty of it all.

You’ll learn that it’s not always about winning, it’s about belonging and loving.


As I do you.

And then there’s the stories. So many stories.

The lifeblood of the game.

Our folk tales.

Of a man blessed with the skill of a god

Who danced and cheated his way to immortality.

Of a balding genius who destroyed everything we loved about him with the butt of his head in his final ever act.

Or there’s the tale of the Turnip Man.

Or the Mad Irishman who took his dog for a walk.

And best of all,

There’ll be tales of a man called Brian

Who told us all he could walk on water and offered to fight heavyweight boxers.

You’ll see your own stories of course.

Store them away. They’ll nourish you as the years go by.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t always make sense.

That it sometimes seems futile.

That it makes you pull out your hair.

Such is the way with this game.

As is life.

Ask anybody who feels the same way.

They’ll tell you a similar story.

You came to us on a Tuesday.

Our beautiful little girl,

More precious than anything the world can offer.

Whatever the years bring to you,

Whatever life throws your way,

Whichever path you choose to walk down,

Be sure of this my darling Bonnie.

Sharing my sofa with you

Will be the greatest honour and pleasure I will ever have.

Dispatches From A Football Sofa has been nominated for the EPL Talk Football Blog of the Season award. If you would like to vote for it, just click on the link below. Thanks.

10 Responses to “For Bonnie”

  1. SpursSimon May 8, 2011 at 11:20 #

    Congrats to all of you – many happy days ahead.

  2. fiveinmidfield May 8, 2011 at 13:48 #

    Congratulations Greg, I wish you and your family all the best for the future. This is a beautiful piece of writing, a lovely way to welcome the new arrival. Hope she enjoys her first experiences of the football sofa!

  3. Rae May 8, 2011 at 21:57 #

    Loved this – the happiness and adoration drip from each word.

    Congratulations, Greg. Fatherhood suits you rather well.

  4. Alan May 9, 2011 at 10:59 #

    Lovely Greg, congratulations and a beautiful piece to welcome her into the the world – or, better, to welcome you to the responsibilities of fatherhood.

    I said to my kids that they could choose their own path. And now, the greatest honour I have is that they sit either side of me on the Shelf and we share the heartbreak and joy, either way, we are arm in arm.



  5. joel May 9, 2011 at 13:52 #

    Inspired writing, from the heart and something you, Bonnie and the wife can cherish for many years to come.

    We of all people should know the ups and downs of football in the last few years and you are right, no matter how much i curse and swear about Arsenes failings i cannot help but adore him and what he stands for.

    Congrats to you and yours Mr Papadopolous look forward to meeting my newest and youngest football rival!

  6. William May 9, 2011 at 17:52 #

    Many, many congratulations Greg to you (and your good lady!). Bonnie’s first word will be Pavlyuchenko, just you wait and see.

  7. Andrew May 9, 2011 at 22:04 #

    Beautiful mate, I hope your daughter enjoys it when she’s older.

  8. Michael May 10, 2011 at 20:11 #

    Congratulations, Greg. Excellent stuff.

    My Mum is United, and my Dad was Arsenal. I chose Watford. You never know, she might surprise you.

  9. Charlottepeachy May 12, 2011 at 17:49 #

    Very touching, what a lovely piece about fatherhood and football. Your passion for both really comes through. A great read. Congratulations 😀 xxx

  10. Steve HUghes May 16, 2011 at 11:55 #

    Stunning piece my friend. Sorry I’m late catching up. Wonderful piece of writing. Congratulations to both of you.

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