lunes, 2 de noviembre de 2009

My new life as a ghost

Becoming a ghost usually involves major change in one’s life. It doesn’t happen every day. For me the call came in May 2009. A name I recognised appeared in the subject line of an email from a friend. I thought it might be a joke. The more momentous the event, it seems, the more one is tempted to see it lightly, to discount it as unlikely. It’s a form of self-preservation, I suppose. So when I opened the message to find it contained a serious suggestion, I was surprised, to say the least.

The name in question was that of Martin Offiah. He’s a former rugby league player who has become a bit of a celeb. Actually, describing Martin Offiah as a former rugby league player is about as apposite as saying that Ringo Starr used to be a drummer in a rock band. When he retired, Martin had scored 501 tries in the game, making him the third most prolific scorer in the game’s history. The two above him, Brian Bevan and Billy Boston, played in a different era, that of the 1950s and 1960s. The game has changed since then. I know because I saw both of them play when I was kid in the West Riding of Yorkshire and a near-permanent feature of Wakefeild Trinity’s Belle Vue home.

I am even in the greatest ever film about rugby league. The film, of course, was Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life. It was nominated for two Oscars and provided Richard Harris with his first starring role. Now if you look really carefully, I am the lad in short trousers behind the sticks at the Belle Vue end in one of the crowd sequences. I, along with more than 28000 others, witnessed as extras the filming of some of the play sequences as a curtain raiser to the 1962 third round Rugby League Challenge Cup tie between Wakefield and Wigan. Wakefield won 5-4. Fred Smith scored the game’s only try, diving in at the corner on the Trinity right. Neil Fox missed the conversion, but kicked a penalty in the game. Wigan’s fullback, Griffiths, kicked two penalties. Tries were only three points in those days, by the way.

To be asked to write a book with Martin Offiah was for me the stuff of dreams, even at the age of 57! I have not kept up my passion for rugby league because in 1970 I moved to London and in 1992 I left Britain altogether. Rugby league is hard to connect with from afar. It’s easier now that the internet brings the far to just a click away.

The suggestion was that Martin, the consummate try-scorer, should select and describe fifty of the greatest tries ever scored in the game. It was a project at appealed to me, both because of my lifetime interest in the game and because here was a chance to become a ghost and perhaps, just perhaps, invent a new me.

Martin and I communicated by phone. I live in Spain and he’s in London. We talked on Skype and I recorded our conversations using shareware that creates mp3 files that can be played a replayed through Realplayer. The 66000 word book appeared from this ether by the end of August and, a few weeks later, there was a website with videos of all the action Martin chose to describe. Have a look at martinoffiah.co.uk and do please read his 50 Of The Best. Imagine the process that produced it. And now, officially, I can call myself a ghost.

View this book on amazon
50 of the Best: Fifty of the Greatest Rugby League Tries of All Time

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