A couple of weeks later the Diamond clan, including Uncle Lenny and their latest recruit, Saffron, was hanging out in the family home when an official-looking letter was discovered amongst the pizza flyers and taxi cards in the letterbox.
“It’s from the County FA,” said Angie, inspecting the envelope. Everybody gathered in the living room and waited, holding their breath. There was a sliver of hope. Robin’s talent had impressed the crowd in the AllStars game and might win over enough of the Board. And Angie had been tirelessly telephoning and writing letters.
“Whatever happens, Robbie,” said Dad, “we’re all behind you. And that means you too, Lenny.”
“It’s not my business,” sniffed Uncle Lenny.
Angie opened the letter and read its contents while the others stared at her, trying to read the result in her facial expression.
“Well, they have changed their rules,” said Angie, slapping the piece of paper on the table. “Boys are now banned from playing with girls in youth football.”
There was a loud groan of disappointment.
“What?” asked Dad. “I can’t believe it.”
“It really shows how prejudiced and backward the football establishment is,” Mum went on, fuming and pacing the room.
“At least now we can put this footballing nonsense behind us,” said Uncle Lenny with inappropriate satisfaction, “and our Robbie can be a normal boy at last.”
“Nonsense!” cried Angie. “Fiddlesticks! We’ll appeal.”
“Come on Mum,” said Robin. “What’s the point?”
Saffie squeezed his hand. There was the good that came from this. He had met Saffie! When he felt low he only needed to snuggle up against her to feel safe and know everything would be OK. It was slightly scary to move from being a relatively free spirit to being bowled over by a more powerful will, but he was starting to learn where the contentedness of men like his father came from: the knowledge that you were in the care of a strong female who would provide for you and defend you. And he was leaving his janegirl days behind. He wanted to look lovely for his girlfriend, and so was taking more interest in makeup, dresses, and other masculine things, and learning to love them.
“I’m not saying it was a waste of time joining the Eagles,” he went on. “I’ve taught a lesson to everyone in Norford. But I can’t play in the youth league any more. My football career’s over.”
His mother was not done. She faced her family, hands on her hips. “I know exactly what we’re going to do,” she said. “Sod an appeal. We’re going to start a boys’ team!”
Everyone exchanged looks, as if she was mad. A boys’ football team? They knew there could be a one-off player like Robin. But an entire team? Of BOYS?
“Yes, I can see it already. We need to find at least thirteen or so boys to start, eleven plus two subs. And we’re going to need a pitch to play on, so I’ll call the youth clubs and see if we can share… I’ll get in touch with the Norford Advertiser, they can do a story on Robbie. And they’ll need kit, too, they can wear pink tops and white skirts, what do you think? Just because they’re playing football doesn’t mean they can’t be masculine. And –”
“Everyone would laugh at them,” cautioned Dad.
“And uh, I don’t think the Association will like the idea of boys’ football, Ms Diamond,” said Saffron.
“They didn’t like the idea of Robin playing either but we pulled it off for a while,” said Angie. “Come on, don’t tell me you’re going to take this lying down. We went through so much only for things to go backwards? Rubbish. We can turn this into a positive. We can still make a difference! Why stop with a team? We could do a boy’s league. A men’s Premier League. A men’s World Cup!” She was almost shouting. “Robin, how would you like to be captain?”
“It wouldn’t be a very good team, Mum. The girls would destroy us. Boys can’t play football…”
He stopped, realising what he’d said, and everyone laughed.
“Boys can play football,” said Angie. “You, my son, have proved it. I’m going to start a boys’ team. And if anyone doesn’t like it, just let them try to stop me!”