Eli loves ball sports. Whether it's booting a football or whacking a tennis ball or chucking a rugby ball - he seems to love them all. He's good too - certainly better than I was at his age, I lacked his surfeit of skills and although he might never grace the stages of the Rod Laver Arena or Wembley Stadium he clearly enjoys running around after a ball. (He does occasionally tweak the rules to suit himself!)
Eli played indoor football (soccer) during the summer. He knew most of the players on the team from school and they were a really successful bunch. He tended to hang out as a defensive midfielder - putting in the vital tackle when an opponent was tearing down on goal or playing a nice through pass to his mates to let them score. I always likened him to Paul Ince or maybe a young Paul Cook - well that's what it looked like to an unashamed proud Dad.
In truth when you're 6 or 7 most kids run round after the ball (for most of the game) like seagulls chasing a chip.
Autumn has arrived in Canberra and Eli's friends have now turned their attention to rugby or outdoor football. I had a few chances to sign him up to play in a rugby (league or union) team or commit him to a football team on a Saturday morning. Canberra has lots going on for kids.
In the end he opted for training with a guy running an operation called 'Brilliant Football'. It's skills based and the kids variously dribble/shoot and play tactics in a local park. It's good as he gets a lot more time on the ball than in a match (when nobody aged under 10 passes the ball). We went for his first session on Sunday and he really loved it. Admittedly I do tend to live vicariously through my kids, but he did pretty well and was so enthusiastic about the whole thing.
Somedays though it's sad watching the kids. There were other parents and grandparents (giving parents a break) sat on the banked seating looking out over the playing fields, but sometimes it feels like I'm the only one there. The joy Eli showed kicking the ball reminds me of the life he used to have. His Mum would have been so happy to have seen him play, Amy would have been amazed by how tall Eli has become (even though his new baggy yellow football shorts reach down to the tops of his socks). She would have cheered him on and hugged him at the end. Had she been here Amy would have packed fruit for the kids and maybe a flask of tea for the two of us. My efforts were less than remarkable, although I did get us there in time and managed to remember Eli's water bottle, (but not Audrey's hat). Of course I praised Eli and held his little, warm hand as we walked to the car, and of course I listened to his excited chattering about his session, but sadly despite my best efforts, I'm still the only one here that he has to tell.