I dreamt that when I scored that goal I was dressed in a red halter neck – and not in a Nilemwe football strip.
I wish! But it was my unconscious mind working overtime. The goal was broadcast again and again on TV. Worldwide. I must have been interviewed twenty times. Instead of answering their very obvious questions with even more obvious answers I wanted to say: “What do I do in my spare time? Well, actually I’m a cross-dresser!”
We were playing Ghana in an international football competition, and we were four-nil down when I was called on for the last twenty minutes to make my international debut. I can’t remember much of what happened, although I have seen the replay of the goal over and over.
‘Wonder goal!’ the press called it. ‘Goal of the century!’
I picked up the ball in the centre of the field and walked slowly forward with it. I started to run as the Ghana players approached and as I picked up speed it seemed the most natural thing in the world to take the ball through a packed Ghanaian defence and round each player in turn before threading the ball into open space on the edge of the penalty and retrieve it before anyone else reacted. I remember the Ghana goalie charging out at me dangerously and as he dived at my feet I flicked the ball arrogantly over him and into the net.
The press asked me how I did that. What was going through my mind? Where did I get the gall? I really had no idea how to respond. I stammered and smiled lots and shrugged. The Nilemwe coach said it was pure intuition, that I had an intellectual football brain and that I had a very bright future. In my dream I was more articulate with the press. I told them I was wearing a red dress because I was a cross dresser and yes, that’s right! – the goal of the century was scored by a guy who likes to dress up in women’s clothes.
‘You don’t have a problem with that do you?’
‘No’ they all answered in chorus, ‘Of course not’.
The following day I hid by the hotel swimming pool in our four-star (no! better make that three and a half) ‘luxury’ hotel. Coach had arranged for hotel security to keep away the press. The other Nilemwian players in the greasy, grubby pool toadied by their recently procured babes and sugars. I was lying in the corner reading Elle. It was in French but I was admiring the glossy pictures.
Some beaming guy wearing a too tight green floral suit with shorts flapping below his knees stood in front of my recliner and cast a wide shadow.
“Hello Tiko. My name’s Al Steinberg. I’ve come quite a long way from dear ol’ London to see if you might be interested in making a shit load of money.”
I sat up and took off my earphones and looked at him. He was in his mid-thirties and as wide as he was tall, his mouth in a perpetual grin.
In the pool the players stopped to look at this strange guy The sweeties tried vainly to re-focus their players’ attention using their special splashing-water techniques but heads nodded knowingly.
Al and I chatted for a while and then I followed him along the swimming pool and out into the courtyard of the hotel to a chauffeur-driven olive green Bentley. Al placed a paternal hand on my shoulder. “You’re a nice lad, Tiko. but Your future, son, is overseas. You gotta know that. You’ll be given a shit load of money the moment you sign on…”
But I wasn’t listening.
I was looking at his very expensive cross over wedge sandals. They looked very chic. Very feminine. Even with Al’s fat ankles. And his toe nails. Wasn’t that the remnants of red nail polish? – he’d failed to wipe off completely.
Then he smiled at me and winked. And looked at me long and hard as if he knew.
He handed me a glossy card. “Have a think. Give me a call. Not just about football. About anything that might be giving you bother. Anything at all!”
And as the Bentley drove away I wondered.
Does he know? How did he know? Can cross-dressers recognise each other?