Boxing day 1998
Back in the nineties Headingley was still a proper stadium with no posh stands in sight. Where the unpopular Carnegie stand now is was open terracing with a couple of port-a-cabins at the back. As we entered the stadium, my cousin said ‘I’ll have one of those cabins one day’. At the time we thought he just wanted to make a lot of money so he could afford to sit inside away from the cold. Little did we know that years later he’d go around burning things for fun, including port-a-cabins.
My feet were getting colder and colder thanks to my cousin piercing holes in my Netto bags when I hadn't been looking earlier. My complaints of how cold it was went unnoticed by my Uncle at first, probably because he felt like he was looking after three kids, considering the way the inebriated Alf was behaving. Mouthing off like he always does, Alf had already caught the attention of a do-good battleaxe of a women who took offence at his manner. She let it be known that she was glad that he wasn’t her husband with a mouth like that. He responded by saying that he was glad she wasn’t his wife with a fat backside like that. Her husband dragged her away and my Uncle did likewise with Alf.
Not too long before the match was due to kick off, we were treated to some pre-match entertainment on the field, and some banter off the field with the Halifax fans that had made it from far away lands, such as Shelf and Hipperholme. All of them were boasting how the likes of Gibson, Marns, Bloem, Bouveng, Cardiss, Moana and Rowley would be too good for Leeds to handle. Even with Wendell Sailor in our side, this lot still believed that they had a chance to beat the Grand Final runners up.
Soon, banter would turn into claps as we welcomed our teams onto the pitch for this annual festive challenge. It was the first time that I’d seen more than a thousand people clap at something, other than the throngs trying to squash flies whilst having a picnic at Flamingo Land. But the loudest cheer in the stadium came from me when Ronnie the Rhino entered the arena, mainly because he was the last thing I believed was real since my Santa illusions had been shattered. I never would have guessed that it was a bloke under that exterior.
Kick-off soon followed but with all the pre-match hype and entertainment the game only managed to hold my interest for about five minutes. I was eight years old with Netto bags for wellies and absolutely freezing.
At eight, my appreciation of Rugby extended just to the scoring of tries and it took twenty-five minutes for my first fix when Sinfield scored from a Dean Lawford's pass. Unfortunately, Hughes' conversion attempt hit a post, and Alf was off on one again to the amusement of everyone around him.
Halifax Blue Sox were poor in that first half, and Leeds in the shape of Leroy Rivett picked up a loose ball to score after 36 minutes. After cheering that try, someone caught the corner of my eye. He looked like a combination of an ageing Carlos the Jackal crossed with ‘Cosmo Smallpiece’. I was drawn to this mysterious bloke, and I was soon to find out why as I walked towards him without a care in the world. My Uncle and Alf were too busy to notice.
Once up close to this bloke, he tapped me on the shoulder and all of a sudden, everyone inside the stadium, including players on the pitch, disappeared into thin air. It was just me and him in a deserted Headingley stadium. This was the second paranormal experience in my life, and like the first time, I wasn’t too fazed because deep inside I knew these experiences didn’t mean any harm.
At first he just smiled at me and I smiled awkwardly back. It then got even weirder when he opened his mouth “Hello, I’m Damo and I’ve come here from the future to advise you about the wonderful life that is ahead of you. All that really matters in life is that you’ve got food, water and air because these are the things that’ll keep you alive. Everything else after that is either trivial or luxury. Take my advice wisely and for the most part, you’ll lead a stress free life”.
All of the sudden my future self disappeared and I was back in Headingley stadium with thousands of people waiting for the second half. By now my cousin and I were absolutely freezing, which prompted our Uncle to take us back to Grandmas early for the annual Boxing Day get together.
To be continued....