In searching the main reasons that push some elderly and overweighted middle-aged guys to have fun chasing a plastic ball with a wooden stick I listed below some of the numerous reasons that, after wearing and scientific researches and exciting considerations, justify our inconditional love for this sport.
- As nobody knows it
As when we tell someone about our passion the most frequent questions are:
- Lovely, but how can you succeed in running on the lawn wearing skakes?
- Have skates got wheels or blades?
- How can the puck slip on the grass?
- Is the horse yours or is it provided by your club?
- As it is the most ancient sport in the world but every year its rules keep on changing.
Some evidence in Egypt show wall paintings dating back to three thousand years ago. In them some men are playing a ball with a stick.
Yet every year rules adapt to the society changes, the Tv demands or the players’ amusement. Thirty years ago the ball was stopped by a hand provided that it fell down at right angles to the ground, the goalkeeper wore a mask when he remembered to take that with him having no other body protections, the offside was nearly the same of Football Association while today we play free as flying birds, there was obstruction just to prevent having strokes on shins, the umpire was the only judge while today in the main international events there is also a video umpire.
The matter is that everytime you return to play after a while you need two hours to understand the rules again or you keep on ignoring them as most of the veterans would do.
- As it is awfully difficult but anybody can play
Our sport does not consist in kicking a ball, bouncing or throwing it into a basket or using our hands.
Our sport respects the ball, treats it gently with a hooked stick working it kindly only with its flat face. So you need to have the right sensitivity and touch to deal the ball by an item that most of the times is jeasously kept and guarded better than a little son is. The keeper then spends a lot of time in adapting his legguards and body protection trying to hide most of his flaccid limbs not loosing at the same time any flexibility and fluidity in his saves. Stuff from artists, believe me!
Even if our sport is difficult it is so humanitarian that it gives roles for everyone: the mad go to the goal, the loser to the left wing, the super loser sit on the bench and those who suffer backache play the coach. Sometimes the mad play as centre forward, the loser as goalie, the super loser is the coach and the backached guy the left wing.
Most of the cases all of them are the coach and there is an incredible mess in the team roles.
So it happens that during a match I, considering myself a fool being a goalkeeper, sitting on the bench after a four games ban and at five minutes to the end ask my coach to let me in as I would have scored. The fool that in that match was playing the coach (Sergio Mignardi, today president of the Italian Federation) let me in and a minute later I score with a reverse drive. The fool coach rejoices, hits his head on the bench roof, almost faints but cries “He had said, he had said!”
- As it does not matter who you are but when you arrive at the pitch you are a friend
Most of us spent their youth practising short corners, saving hits and strokes so to become a good goalie, improving their Indian dribbling, the reverse hit, the push, the laying down on penalty corners. Few of us dedicated time to the physical training. There was little time and the pitch was used by three teams simultaneously. This continuous status let us grow together and some of us were together in the army at SMEF (1), others shared the same room in the away games or in the National team ones, the conseguence being that of common moods and manners.
Just for that when you arrive at the ground everybody says hello to you, embraces you, gives you information you did not know as real metropolitan legends. But when I was in the Gemelli hospital, between life and death, in the infectious desease ward, the Gladiators came under my room window before leaving for a summer tournament in Potenza Picena.
- As those who play hockey have guts
If you ask an ordinary guy about his own willingness to run for his life towards a cannon shooting bullets hoping to be shot just to save his group or team, you will get back the same answer: not even if you pay me. Yet this is what we do when we have to defend on penalty corners especially in indoor hockey matches. If you give sticks and crooks to common people and they start arguing for any reason after 5 minutes there will be wounded and injured guys right and left. In 30 years I have never seen one of us hit an opponent on purpose, more the stick is put away and guts are needed.
As a coach of mine (Sergio Ballesio) played the Olympic Games in Rome 1960 and against India during a difensive short corner he broke his front teeth, rinsed and came back playing… needless to say he became a dentist.
- As hockey is meditation
All of us play this sport because we love it and even if we discover other activities we always come back home. But we adore it as it always conforms to our physical and mental features. Honestly some of us do not have the essential physicality for more athletic sports but everyone finds his and that becomes his Nirvana: he looks light, he does not think to his family or work problems any longer, does his best and at most he dreams about lasagna at Sunday lunch.
Lots of times when I come back to play I feel that is the best thing I can do, everything runs easy and from a buffalo I turn to a butterfly. I confess that I remember almost all my saves in my long carrier but I cannot realise how I could do them. Passing the time I lost agility but lightness still permits me laying down on short corners, diving using the stick and what is more saving a flying shot under the bar at the age of 47. If I did that out of the field and I were not admitted to a hospital for arrived mental diseases I would spend some months in an Orthopedic Trauma Centre.
- As it is fine
As veteran tournaments are so frequent and we all are still there and that is fine. As we discover that Ettore Spalletta (2) has got an ironic unexpected flair spending some hours on Sundays to write down report cards for the last matches and that is fine. As S.Vito (a team in central Italy) play a sort of rugby and hockey mixed together and have problems with the umpires as they did 30 years ago and that is fine. As Paolo Tosetto (2) is an actor as we have always suggested instead of playing hockey and that is fine. As Claudio Valdinoci (2) at the age of 60 plays 3 matches a day with no pause while your backbone aches just for 3 saves and that is fine.
As I spent 5 minutes talking to Sergigno (2) about some differences I wholly ignored between food suppliers and metalworkers and that is fine. As I remember Sergio Bertini (2) a short guy always running througout the pitch in the Lazio squad and now he has got white hair and always talks about meaningless things to Roberto Frioni (2) and that is fine. As Alberto Anglana (2) is alway the same fellow and during a final keeps crying to North Rome squad “You always have Via Gradoli” (3) and that is fine. As just now I am at an international meeting in Amsterdam and I do not care at all so I kill my time on this paper for my friends and that is fine. As 2 minutes ago an e-mail from Gianluca Iaccarino’s (2) arrived at me and he kindly asked me if I could play the next games with a respect and tact that nobody uses to me and that is definitively fine.
- Scuola militare di Educazione Fisica
- Italian veteran players
- There is a sort of rivalry between North Rome richer and snobbish and South Rome more popular and passionate.