“Fuck’s Mick playing at?”

It was a valid question.  Thanks to a well-drilled line of industrious professionals protecting us ahead, plus our fabled Ecuadorian duo up front, it had been a quiet opening twenty-five minutes for Ian, myself and our keeper, Sully.  Indeed, my fellow centre-half and I had had little cause even to speak until now.  But now, now, as Ian barked his valid question, it dawned on the entire stadium, wave-like, that all was not well with the referee.

Mick Jigger, a forty-two-year-old father of four, a P.E. teacher from Barnstaple, a bald man, a football referee.  Here he was before the twenty-two of us – before the twenty-two thousand of us – stood with his legs straight and his torso leaning forward, hands gripping just above the knees, and neck craned unsettlingly upward, as if he were staring into the eyes of someone eighteen inches shorter than himself.

Seemingly frozen in this position, his mouth gaping and his eyes glassy, he somehow appeared undistressed.  Alert, but calm.  Present, but distant.  Suddenly from his mouth there emerged a long, shiny, thick, moist, flexible, green object – inch by inch it continued, until after maybe eight feet it terminated in a cheeky little face and flopped finally to the turf.  Bewildered, I looked over at Ian.

“Dunno, looks like he’s swallowed some kind of limp serpent at some point.”