The new Chief Coach knew what he would do if he could have his way. A so-called top class footballer smoking cigarettes. What was the boy thinking?
And, he still was a boy.
Chief Coach Herbertsen had only recently been appointed to lead one of the best-known football clubs in the world and he was expected to deliver great things: the championship title at least.
There were some problems at the club, and most of them had to do with the attitude of the players. The older men were trouble enough, but now he had to deal with one of the “rising stars.”
It was all over the news media and some commentators were saying it was a scandal. A professional footballer had been photographed smoking a cigarette. What a disgrace.
Chief Coach Herbertsen put down the newspaper in despair. The front page; the “story” had made the front page for chrissake. In a few moments time the young footballer in question was due to appear before him and he was expected to do something about it.
Let’s call him Bobby Dazzler, just in case any lawyers are reading this: we don’t need another scandal. You know who it is.
Dazzler had just turned eighteen and was a rising star at the club. He had just broken into the first team, but was spending most of his time on the bench. When he came off it, or when he started some of the minor matches, he’d shown himself to be a very enterprising goal scorer. But, he was just at the start of his career. He needed a lot of discipline if he were to make it in the word of football. Herbertsen had lost count of the number of talented but ill-disciplined teenagers who eventually came to nothing in their twenties.
Dazzler could go that way if he didn’t buck up his ideas.
He’d been out one night, in the street, just walking somewhere like an ordinary civilian, when he lit up a cigarette. A passing citizen on a cell phone captured him enjoying his Marlborough and this being the twenty-first century, immediately sold the image to a tabloid newspaper.
And, now it was a big deal, an athlete smoking tobacco. It had been a major item on twenty-four-hour television news all yesterday and they were still talking about it this morning. Social media had gone crazy and every sanctimonious so-and-so in cyberspace had a view. Dazzler was not coming out of this well.
Herbertsen would have laughed out loud if he hadn’t been so worried. What was he supposed to do about it? The club wanted Dazzler “disciplined” to appease all those critics and it was up to him to do it.
Herbertsen despaired. He often thought that football clubs treated their players like schoolchildren. It happened all the time; especially when they travelled to away matches or went away on tour. The players were told when to get up in the morning, what to eat, when to eat it, when to take a nap in the daytime and when to go to bed at night. Even when they were away from the club they were expected to observe a night-time curfew; to be home no later than eleven o’clock; even earlier if there was a match the next day.
It was even worse when the players were staying at a hotel; there were strict rules about behaviour; if they used their cell phones or tablets and the like they had them confiscated. It was worse than being at boarding school. No girls were allowed of course, not even wives. Coach Herbertsen or a member of his staff were expected to make what they called a “dormitory round” at night to make sure everyone was where they should be and there were no illegal visitors.
That was embarrassing for everyone concerned. Especially the one time Herbertsen stumbled across two of his players and very well-known ones at that (very well known: it would make your hair curl if you discovered their names) together pleasuring one another under the bed clothes. What could Herbertsen do? They were over the age of consent and it was legal. He just closed the door and none of them ever mentioned the matter again.
Yes, they were treated just like schoolboys. They even had their own “prefects.” The senior players ruled the roost. If you were a new member of the playing squad, especially if you had just been promoted from the junior ranks, you knew your place and you stuck to it. Only speak when spoken to; keep your opinions to yourself. The club captain was like God (or the Head Boy at least). You just did not get on his wrong side.
The cherry on the cake was the clothes the players were forced to wear. The red blazer with white braiding and grey trousers, white shirt, club tie: it really was indistinguishable from a school uniform. All it needed was the addition of grey short trousers and they would look like a bunch of little kids. As it was Dazzler was so young he was no older than a senior schoolboy; someone in the sixth-form, say. Coach Herbertsen saw real schoolboys every day in the street that looked older than some of his football squad.
Ha! Herbertsen thought we really do treat them like schoolkids. Smoking a cigarette. Well, back in the day, he knew how the school would have dealt with that. Off to the housemaster’s study; bend over; sore bum; don’t let me catch you smoking again. All over in a moment. No fuss.
Why couldn’t it be that simple, now? Herbertsen was the boss of the players, their headmaster if you want to continue the analogy, and one of his jobs was to impose discipline. There wasn’t much he could do when they broke the rules. If one of the lads missed training without an excuse or broke one of the more petty rules, he usually summoned him to his office.
There was no cane or paddle. He would give them a rollicking. The media called it “the hairdryer treatment.” Sometimes, he thought, it would do more good if he gave them the “hairbrush treatment.”
Herbertsen knew if the reports he received from the junior squad manager were true, Dazzler was in trouble for more than just smoking cigarettes. He liked a drink and his house situated just outside of town was the venue for lots of parties involving the club’s younger players, including many who were only apprentices. Dazzler should be setting them an example, not leading them astray.
Then there was the bullying: he had it on good authority that Dazzler was the leader of a gang who terrorised some of the younger players. Herbertsen could scarcely believe it but Dazzler and the others took one of the kids and put him in the clothes drier in the club’s laundry. The poor lad had some kind of fit.
Dazzler arrived for his meeting ten minutes late and was neither apologetic about his poor timekeeping nor contrite about his smoking. Herbertsen was not impressed. He tore into the boy, ranting about his bad behaviour and was rewarded with a shrug of the shoulders and a pout for his trouble.
He felt his anger rising and was about to punch the brat in the mouth when he regained control for just long enough to tell him to F-off out of his office and come back to see him after training.
Herbertsen had calmed down considerably by the time Dazzler reappeared later that day. He had consulted with the club’s chairman who confirmed that although Dazzler might yet prove to be a star, he wasn’t there yet, and if the Head Coach wanted to transfer him to another club, that was alright with him.
Good, thought Herbertsen, let’s deal with the brat once and for all. And, he hatched a plan on how to do exactly that.
Dazzler had also had time to think carefully about the newspaper reports. On the phone, his agent had warned him that he shouldn’t upset the club. It was a major world footballing power and if it let him go, the only way to go would be down. With his growing reputation as a smoker and a party-animal another top club was unlikely to move in with a contract. That would be the end of his career, the fame and the riches. And, Dazzler had already decided at the tender age of eighteen, he would do anything to achieve these.
It was imperative that he make his peace with the Head Coach.
Dazzler was on time for his second meeting of the day with Coach Herbertsen and ready to show him some remorse.
But, he didn’t get the chance. “I have discussed it with the chairman and your contract will be terminated forthwith.”
The shocking news took the wind out of Dazzler and he held on to a table to stop himself fainting to the ground.
“You have nobody to blame but yourself. You are constantly misbehaving and you show no remorse. It is best that you go.”
Remorse? Dazzler had prepared a little speech of apology, but now he had forgotten every word of it.
Tears welled in his eyes and all he could say was, “I’m sorry, boss, I’m sorry.”
Herbertsen looked at the teenager with satisfaction. That was more like it; he’s not so arrogant now.
Dazzler pleaded for one last chance. He would do better. He promised.
“You lack discipline. You behave like a spoilt child. There is nothing I can do with you,” the Head Coach said, but he knew there was something he could do and the solution was hidden in his desk drawer.
“Please,” Dazzler was begging now. “I’ll do anything, please give me a second chance.”
He had flown straight into the Head Coach’s web.
“Maybe there is something we can do. You act like a spoilt brat and you need to be taken down a peg or two.”
Dazzler looked on blankly, not comprehending his boss.
The Head Coach opened his drawer and pulled out a large oval shaped hairbrush, borrowed from one of the women office workers this afternoon for this particular purpose.
“You need a damn good spanking.”
Dazzler’s jaw almost dropped at the absurdity of the situation he now found himself in, but he had the good sense to stay silent.
“This can be your one last chance,” Herbertsen assured him as he waved the hairbrush in the footballer’s direction.
To say Dazzler couldn’t believe it was an understatement. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous? The coach spanking the football player: was it even legal?
Yet, in his present circumstances it was the only solution. He would submit to his boss and be able to pursue the fame and fortune of a career at one of the world’s top clubs. Otherwise his career was as good as over.
Herberston wasn’t prepared to discuss the matter.
“I want you to lower your trousers. You can keep your underpants on. Then bend across my desk. C’mon, do it now.”
Dazzler knew he had only seconds to make the biggest decision of his life. Bend over and show the Head Coach his arse, or walk out of the door, possibly to oblivion.
When he thought about it later he couldn’t remember much of what happened next. But he did know that he unbuckled his belt, let his trousers fall to his knees and then he lent face down across the boss’s huge desk.
Dazzler didn’t know how many times Herbertsen smacked the wooden hairbrush across the seat of his boxer briefs, but later, back at home, as he nursed his raw buttocks, he could see both cheeks and this thighs down almost to the backs of his knees were covered in mauve bruises and some were turning black.
The throbbing pain had died down, but the whole area was still tender to the touch and he had difficulty sitting comfortably. These bruises would last for days, probably weeks: how would he explain them away to the guys in the dressing room?
He couldn’t be certain but he thought he might have bawled his eyes out as he lay face down across the desk, the hairbrush raining down across his buttocks, while he gripped the edge of the desk for dear life.
By the time he reached home, his nerves were still shot to pieces. He needed something to calm himself down. In the room below he had a packet of cigarettes and there was booze in the fridge …
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second