An Englishman has organized a replay of a school football match after 50 years of feeling guilty for scoring ‘foul’ goal.
Graeme Jones admitted to shoving a goalkeeper who had the ball in his hands, “ten yards” over the goal line in the dying seconds of a match to earn a “dubious” draw in September, 1972.
But the former Royal Navy training instructor said he was determined to “put right a wrong” after learning of the result’s lasting impact on his aggrieved local rivals.
It was no mean feat either, as Jones had to spend 18 months assembling the same line-up from the Gayton Primary School team, in the Wirral, who took on St Peter’s School half a century ago.
And before Saturday’s game (Aug 27), they even recreated an old squad photo that had appeared in a local paper when they were just ten years old.
Graeme’s bitter rivals went on to take a stunning 6-2 win in the one-off geriatric grudge match.
And though he was left feeling disappointed with the final result, Graeme said he could now put his “demons to bed”.
“We got stuffed because they had to bring on a couple of [younger players],” said Jones. “But my demons have been put to bed and my conscience is clear now, and we would have still lost regardless.”
“As I said before if we lose, we lose, and I wanted to turn a wrong into a right.”
It became all the more urgent to put the matter to bed, since during 2020 lockdowns when the idea of organizing the game came to Jones, he discovered that his neighbor from the St. Peter’s team had never forgiven him for playing dirty all those years ago.
“He told me, ‘I remember that game, and I’ve never forgiven you,’” said Jones. “‘You shoved the goalkeeper about ten feet behind the line in the corner kick in the dying minute, and your school PE teacher [the referee] gave the goal.”
“I was a center-half back in the day, and I just came up and bulldozed my way through,” he reminisced. “You wouldn’t get away with it today.”
Over the next couple of years, Graeme went about tracking down every former player who’d been in his school team’s original starting line-up. He had to bully a few and plead to others, but he managed to get the exact, albeit greyer, starting team as before.
Graeme even managed to get in contact with his former PE teacher, Alan Jones, who had awarded his team their controversial last gasp equalizer. Graeme was amazed to find that Jones is still alive, fit, and healthy in his early to mid-80s. The former-teacher observed the coin toss for first possession to ensure there was no foul play.
The two teams played a 30-minute-a-side match at nearby Heswall football club’s ground, with a raffle set up to help buy Graeme’s old school a new team kit.
And though Jones said that “the best parts of him are in a hospital bin” and that the team of golden oldies wouldn’t attempt another match, he said they would continue to meet up and renew their bonds following the now iconic fixture, with 522 years of memories between them all.