We were top of the table with a full haul of points and it wasn’t even close. It was 1982, we were all but 12 years old and the title of champions for the Bezirkliga Rheinhessen (youth league) was within our grasp. What made it special, was that we had not yet lost a single game in the season. Winning every one of 26 matches is hard enough for any team. After all, the ball is round and even Arsenal’s invincible team drew a few games. It is difficult to remain perfect, particularly when things begin to “mean” something and suddenly the next shot will either spell greatness or utter defeat. We have all seen the highlights, we have all had our dreams and no more vivid for us was the goal of winning that title, with a perfect record and to become famous in our own right.
Of course, we didn’t win them all. It was a cold, rainy and windy day, the field was soggy, the ball heavy and we were beaten by a lesser team by 2 goals to 1. The streak had got to us in the end, the pressure was unbearable and it actually felt like a relief that we didn’t have to be perfect the next Sunday. But the sad thing is, that’s all I remember. I can only ever see in my memories that one game we lost and I have completely forgotten any recollection of the other 25 victories we enjoyed during that wonderful season. We choose to remember that which is important to us at the time, shame that we can’t recall that which brought us the most joy and happiness.
There is a lot to be said about reliving your life through the eyes of a child. How different we now see the things that were so important at the time, yet now don’t really seem to matter to us. For whatever reason, at some point in our past, we have all done things that required great sacrifice, energy, and time in the pursuit of an action, that in retrospect seems utterly pointless. A false sense of loyalty perhaps, a misguided sense of importance or even mere feelings, can lead us to do things that become all consuming, like a mission, a cause or a sense of purpose. And we would spend a fortune to be able to have these moments again and how different our decisions would be.
Youth is wasted on the young and the question is, how to protect the next generation from making the same mistakes? In many ways we can’t, and it is up to every young person to make their way in the world, learn from their mistakes and become better for it. But there are words of wisdom that we can bestow with the benefit of hindsight. Nothing is ever so important that it warrants sacrificing everything, and nothing matters more than making the most of the time that is given to you. So the next time you sit in a traffic jam, and a Chelsea-tractor cuts you off, while the perfectly coiffured driver with black sunglasses gives you the finger, think: life is but a collection of moments and it is up to us to choose which ones we remember.