The Ball's Gotta Move

The Ball’s Gotta Move: Chapter One

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Note: We are very happy to begin a multi-part fictional Philadelphia soccer story from Josh Trott. Chapter Two will run on Friday, with new chapters running on Mondays and Fridays after that. All the characters, soccer clubs, and schools in the story are fictional. 

The reason why I play is because all these stoop guys are always blabbing about my father. Not Mom. But GG is like, “Your daddy, best player in the city.” Then she goes on, I mean, like an hour or two, won the chip in 00s with East Catholic, MVP at East Catholic. Center mid, scored more goals than the striker. East Catholic.

So I say, “GG, you know East Catholic got closed.”

She starts talking about how that’s because there aren’t any Catholics anymore and how the pope should hear about it, and I said, “Well he’s coming this September so why don’t you tell him.”

She said, “You keep that mouth moving I’m going to take you over my knee.”

I ask if she’s going to make me eggs. She says make your own eggs. Then, while I’m cooking them she starts telling the story all over again. “1999. East Catholic. Jimmy is the captain. Not everybody can be captain. You have to be good. You have to be strong. You have to work. And you have to have the respect of the other players.”

“The toaster is broken.”

“Your dad was a star.”

“The toaster doesn’t work.”

“Just put the bread on the pan.”

“There’s no eggs.”

“Wait until Friday.”

“We got pop tarts?”

She laughed. I guess I’m eating fried toast. When I lived with Mom, we had freaking poptarts.

“I wish you could have been there, Junior. It was amazing, they man marked him, This big bruising kid who was hitting him with elbows and raking his shins with his cleats. And everybody yelling, but it was the playoffs and back then, you know, the refs let them play.

“But on that one play, that monster was over his shoulder but Jimmy just shook his shoulders and that big bully fell to the ground, and Jimmy was in. The keeper charged, diving sideways, and Jimmy, moving fast, cool as cucumber, chipped it back post. It sailed up, over the keeper, dropped into the the corner of the twine. And the crowd erupted.”

“That’s how it happened last time you told it.”

“You should have been there.”

“If I was, Dad wouldn’t have been.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

She looks at me, and I’m still hoping to eat lunch so I shut up. She knows what I said. He isn’t here.

If I’m walking down to the store, dudes on their stoops start talking, “Oh shit, you Jimmy’s kid? Keep your foot on a ball, kid, you grow up like him. He was a legend.”

I don’t even nod. I’m going to be better than him. I’m going to play the game where people see me, and they say that is Junior. “A great player. The greatest.”

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“Yeah, his dad wasn’t bad either.”

“But not him.”

“No, Jim, Sr. wasn’t that good.”

That’s why I play.


It was a June day, but the weather-lady on channel 6 said it was only going to hit 85, so there was a good chance of getting a pick-up game, especially in the morning. I told GG, “I’m going to Penn.”

She said, “You need to mow the back lawn.”

It’s not a lawn. It’s some weeds that are too tall to mow, and everybody knows the weed whacker doesn’t work. I just grabbed my bag, checked my cleats were in it, and headed out the door. I had to bike over because the sub fare was $2.25 and all I had from Mom until Friday was five bucks. It’s a ride, takes like forty-five minutes, but when I get there, I see bodies running back and forth on the green turf. I don’t pedal down the long ass foot ramp, thinking I’ll save something for when I’m on the field. I can see right away that I’m going to be the littlest guy on the field, but that’s usually the scene. Not a worry, because you know, soccer is the little man’s game. Messi, that dude is tiny. Nogs the Cog.

You got to be nice, and me, I’m nice. I take my bike over by one of the aluminum benches and flip off my sneakers and fit my cleats on and move over next to the game. They’re playing across about half of the field, using the lacrosse nets. I like that because you can finish high on those. I walked onto the side with shirts on it, start trying to collect a pass. I don’t like taking off my shirt cuz I get burnt. If I go to the shore, I put on like four greasy handfuls of 60 sunblock, and I still turn crab color. Irish blood.

Some husky Mexican kid yells, “What are you doing, now the teams aren’t even.”

I say, “I want to play.”

He shakes his head but doesn’t say anything else.

Nobody passes me the ball for a while. I’m little. Then I check back to get a touch and the big Mexican kid I already mentioned hits a turf skimmer into me. It pops off my cleat a little, but I get it moving up field. I bake the first guy with a simple cut, and I’m almost through on goal, turning it inside past this Jamaican kid, but he throws a shoulder into me, throwing me into the turf.

I stood up and pushed him, “Yo, what the hell.”

He kind of laughed, “Chill,” he said.

I threw a punch into his jaw, but he deflected it. Then he pushed me away. The Mexican kid jumped in. “Stop,” he said.

I said, “I’m just getting started.”

He turned to me, “Shut up.”

The Jamaican kid said, “This kid can’t play here. First thing he does is throw a fist.”

So I’m like, “I’m not going anywhere. I beat this dude, and next thing I know he slams me into the turf. He should leave.”

The Mexican kid, who the other kids are calling Jefe says to me, “You say sorry for throwing the punch.” Then he turns to the Jamaican kid, “You apologize for the foul, and then you can play.”

The Jamaican kid says, “Sorry. It was a foul.”

I said to the Mexican kid, “You aren’t the boss of this field.”

I pull the ball under me, spin so I’m facing their goal and take off upfield. But Jefe is like, “Ignore him.” All the other kids do nothing and I run the ball in. Score. Except not really. I look around. Everyone is just standing there. Not really any fun so I walked over to the sideline, got a drink. They start playing again.

The game really isn’t that bad. The Mexican kid yells at some of the kids around him when they carry too much so it’s not like normal pickup. Faster, more organized. So I walk back over. They just keep going and I’m thinking about biking home but then it’s like, a waste to ride over here. I thought for a second for saying sorry for the punch but the only thing I was sorry about was how I missed him.

So I dribbled around the field, lowkey watching their game. I seen the Mexican kid could really ball, he usually kept it simple but he was seeing passes that were nice, and then he just stayed home and switched the ball. Once he got it with a little bit of space and then he surged through the bodies, beat two or three real fast and finished with a cannon into the corner of the small goal. I guess that was why they all listened to him.

After a while a different game started, with older guys, and I played with them. When some of the kids from that first game joined us, they acted like nothing happened. Didn’t talk to me. Probably didn’t want to start nothing. Anyway, the boss of everything wasn’t there so I let it go and played with them, but not too nice.

Really, I’m not being like a Kanye West or nothing, I tore up that game. I was ghosting these old dudes and firing that ball back post like steady. Then I look at the clock and it’s time to go.

I pushed those pedals no joke, cause Mom was coming over. Really, my mom’s is the best thing in my life. She’s the one that brought me over to U4 practice and said, “Go get em, Junior.”


  1. James Lockerbie says:

    I bet jimmy’s dad could have played pro if the NASL didn’t collapse!

  2. I think East Catholic is North Catholic………..

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