Early-Mid 1980s, Willville District, Pleasantview
Daniel Pleasant had always enjoyed football. He especially looked forward to weekends, when his father, Jeff, had the time to kick a ball in the yard with him… while his younger sister Jennifer looked on.
After an hour or two, they would head back indoors to enjoy refreshing fruit juice and chips, while watching the live football match on TV. Only three out of the four members of the Pleasant family would sit cheering, with their eyes glued on the TV.
Daniel’s mother, Diane, would refill the cups and plates, smile at her husband and son, while tutting softly at Jennifer. A little girl watching football as enthusiastically as the guys? Unheard of in her day. She never understood why Jeff would encourage her by buying her that boyish jersey.
“Dad! Jen! Did you see that? Simadona’s bicycle kick went an inch higher than the goal!!”
“Yeah, son!! Imagine if he’d scored from that!!”
“Dad, Dan… I want to be a footballer one day, and score from a bicycle kick!”
Jeff put his arm gently on his daughter’s shoulder. “Jen, the Big Leagues only allow boys to play. It’s still fun to enjoy football without going out to play.”
Jennifer’s eyes grew wide. “What about you, Dad? Why don’t you play football so we can watch you on TV?”
“Daddy has to go to work at the space station. One day, I’m going to fly to Mars, so I can’t play football as a job.”
“What about Dan?”
Daniel swallowed his chip a little too quickly, causing a minor choke that was quickly alleviated by a large gulp of juice.
“In two weeks’ time, your brother will be joining Simley Town B, to start training to play for their Under-18 League.”
“I want to join too!”
“I’m sorry, Jen,” gulped Daniel. “As Dad said, they only allow boys to join. Even if you were a boy, you’re only eight this year, so you’re too young anyway. But it’s OK, you can always cheer me on!”
“But I want to play!”
“Jennifer, look at Daddy. Daniel and I didn’t create the rules about only boys being allowed to play, but we can only tell you about these rules. It’s OK for girls to enjoy WATCHING football.”
Jennifer Pleasant stood up from the sofa, crying “I hate you, Daddy! I hate you, Daniel!” before bursting into tears, and storming off to her room.
Daniel had a successful first year of training. Simley Town B was so impressed with his progress, that they allowed him a place in their Starting Eleven. Now fourteen, Daniel was excited to be able to start the match playing on the pitch, instead of being stuck on the substitutes bench.
His parents took the news much better than his nine-year-old sister. While Jennifer still watched football with Jeff and Daniel, the only time she made any noise was when she was cheering for a goal.
Her reactions to Daniel’s achievements in Simley Town B were lukewarm, at best. But on the day of the match of Daniel’s debut in the Starting Eleven…
“Dad, I can’t find my boots!”
“Your boots? I thought they were always next to the coat rack?”
“They’re not there. And we must reach the stadium in half an hour!”
Jeff Pleasant panned his head around the living room, and shot a quick glance at the empty part of Daniel’s duffel bag. Father and son started ransacking the living room.
Just then, Jennifer emerged from her room, bawling, as her ear was being pulled by Diane.
“Jeff, you can stop looking. Look what I found in your darling daughter’s room.”
In Diane’s other hand, were a pair of football boots, which she released into Daniel’s outstretched hand.
Diane stared sternly at Jennifer. “Little girl, you’re grounded from wearing the football jersey for one week, and from attending the match today.”
Daniel packed the boots quietly into his duffel bag.
“Diane, dear, our tickets will go to waste if any of us didn’t go. Come on, Jen, stop crying. Apologize to Dan, and we’ll all go.”
“Jeff, at least make her change into a red dress to match Daniel’s team colors! I can’t believe you’ll buy that fringin’ jersey, and let her wear it everyday…”
Jennifer bawled even louder. Daniel closed his eyes to stay calm.
“Diane, please. We’re going to a stadium, for Watcher’s sake, and jerseys are definitely better there than dresses.”
Diane shook her head. “Do you secretly wish for your daughter to play football?”
“She’s only wearing a jersey! Football is exciting, so why can’t she enjoy watching it? What’s wrong with letting her cheer on her brother?”
“I don’t believe you, Jeff. What man would want our girl, if she’s so interested in football?”
“You’ll never know, dear. She’s still so young anyway. Everyone, get into the car NOW, or we’ll all be late!”
In the car, Daniel wondered how things would be different if Jennifer were a boy. He was quite sure his parents would be proud of having two football-playing sons.
However, his parents were traditional, and his sister was now whining in the car. Daniel remained quiet, as he did not have the heart to make things worse for her.
More importantly, Daniel needed a clear mind to focus on the match: the first time he is starting the match for Simley Town B in the Under-18 League. He must not waste this opportunity to make an excellent first impression.
How will young Daniel Pleasant fare in his first official match?
How will his family react in the audience?
Find out in the [next chapter] …
GOALS OF DANIEL PLEASANT – Chapters
1. The Wannabe
2. Juvenile Match
3. His Biggest Fan
4. An Oldie But a Goodie
5. Pleasant-Burb Family Dinner 2015
6. Team Dynamics
7. The Trap — most “familiar” Pleasant family scenario
8. The Purge
9. A New Leaf
11. Pecking Order