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Kcab eht Morf ti Gnittih Ylwols Dlrow eht Dnuora


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I'm not quite sure why I'm here, well actually I know exactly why I'm here, but that doesn't mean it actually makes sense. I funnel through customs at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. Like most people, my visa application is tucked into the photo page of my passport. Unlike everyone else in the queue, the picture in my passport isn't me, the name isn't mine and the date of birth is pure fiction. That is, it was, yesterday, today it's a brave new world, with my face changed to match the stranger in the passport. 

I realise, as I reach the window, that I assumed I'm the only person in the queue in this position, it would be crazy if anyone else was, but then the definition of what falls into crazy has been drastically skewed off the charts. Shuffling through in a daze, I don't realise that I made it through customs and passport checks until the tropical air hits me in the face.

Under the artificial airport light there are no gaggles of gushing relatives, it's 3am in the morning. It's all hawking taxi drivers and sleepy, silent drivers holding up white name placards that blaze like flashbulbs in the light. I've almost walked past the tall thin coloured gentleman holding the card that says "Greenwood", oh yeah... that's me now.

There's no awkward chit chat, the driver casts a strange eye over the lack of luggage but says nothing. Moments later we are flying through the night everything brand new to my eyes, but I'm too tired and emotionally wiped out to show any interest. It's also a blur at the speed the driver is charging. 

Next is a hotel, it could be anywhere, I could be anyone, which I think is probably the point. Finally into the room and it's what you would expect, bed, bathroom, towels, phone by the bed. A light on the phone is flashing even as I come into the room.

"Hi Neil, we've set you up some job interviews for tomorrow with clubs who are looking for managers, we don't really care which team you get the job with, just get your feet in the door. We will be in touch." That was the entire message, I guess small talk and well wishes went out the window when you've been relocated round the world on their dime. 

I dumped the phone off the hook, they might be in touch, but not before I get some sleep. Passport, wallet, pack of playing cards, all dumped next to the phone. Shoes kicked off, sleep came easy, collapsed on the bed, my entire worldly possessions either on my back or dumped in the room.

Brave new world my ass.  

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Most people when they look in the mirror probably have some complaints. Even those who have chosen to have changes made to their face. My new face wasn't exactly bad, hell I was probably handsome as far as someone was concerned, if they consumed enough alcohol first. My main complaint, it wasn't the face I'd asked for, and trust me, when your being dealt the poo end of the stick to begin with, not getting what you thought you had a say about, well that stings like an injection in the big muscles.

I guess my lifestyle could have been described as fast, hard drink, loose women, new cars, a propensity to gamble on football. I enjoyed it, I was good at it. I confounded probability on a regular basis, both with the amount of money I won, and the standard of female company I kept. Which is obviously where the problems in my tale of woe come from.

Cutting a long, very long story kinda short, because trust me we will have time for the details later. I was involved with a knockout of a woman who unbeknownst to me was a bit on the side for some high up in some untouchable world wide organised crime group. How pretentious can somebody be, to take offence over the fact some guy is getting his end away with the very person who they are getting their end away behind the back of their significant other! 

I was left for dead, beaten and bleeding in an alleyway thinking that while yes that had been painful, if I survived then my troubles were over. The revenge of the gangster manhood had been sated and I was free to get back to enjoying life. Oh no, turns out that men who socialise like I do, well they attract the attention of the fuzz. They scooped me out of that alley, plied me with enough painkillers to cause an elephant to see pink flying people and made me an offer. Either go to work for them, and be protected and looked after. Or they would patch me up just enough and put me back out there to more than likely get killed in the eagerly awaited sequel, Revenge of the gangster penis 2 (This Guy's got Balls).

Needless to say I plumped for option one, if you can call it an option. They rebuilt my face, I produced a rather fetching picture of Ryan Reynolds and asked to be made to look like that. They said they would see what they could do. I asked for skin with no hair follicles for my face so I'd never have to waste time shaving again. They informed me that was a brilliant idea. Months later when the bandages came off, I had stubble, because facial hair could be adapted to change my looks if required, and I certainly looked more like Deadpool than Ryan Reynolds.

So yes, looking in the hotel bathroom mirror in the arse end of Africa I have much to be disgruntled about. Though a job isn't one of them. I am the new manager of Falcon Gold, they expect me to "be competitive" which people might consider a bit vague. However, having been much less than competitive back in that alleyway, I get the basics of what they want. My first point of business is to flesh out the backroom staff and basically make them do all the work. I have a Director of Football for crying out loud! His name is Peter Kabwe, I affectionately refer to him as Pedro. Between him, Tanaka Moyo my assistant manager, and Lee Moyo my technical director, no relation to Tanaka but I still refer to them as the Hellman brothers, all the work gets done. My only job around the football club is to read all the reports and advice these guys put on my desk, and turn up on match days to pick the team and gesticulate appropriately at the players from the dugout.

Which leaves plenty of time for my real job, spending money on hookers, gambling, drinking, keeping my ear to the ground regarding drugs, guns and match fixing. You see, when you've been strong armed into helping take down a world wide organised crime corporation with close ties to football all over the world. Well you have to start at the bottom, be thorough and be convincing, if that means snorting sugar off a call girls ass (because my body is a temple and I ain't touching the real white powder) then unfortunately that is the kind of effort I will just have to put in. 

It's a long way to the top when your starting in Zimbabwe..... 

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I don't appreciate when the machine breaks down. I came in, I was professional, I put together a team with the express purpose of doing all my work for me. However, as I crawled into work around midday after working after midnight from my hotel room the night before. It became clear to me that stuff simply wasn't getting done. Not all the stuff, Pedro is like a rat up a drainpipe, I don't think there is a player in the whole of Africa he hasn't put a bid in for. I am however beginning to wonder whether he has the qualifications required to direct traffic, let alone be a director of football. He has a hardon for strikers, either that or he thinks we can field 8 of them in a team. 

What isn't getting done specifically, is the friendlies, it quite clearly states on the sheet that backroom staff will organise friendlies, there is a tick box which is ticked and everything. Hell the 1st few days when I noted it wasn't happening I very subtly re-ticked the tick box and dropped it on Tanaka's desk on my way to my post midday power nap. That however appeared to be too subtle for them, so in the end, in a moment of lucid unhungover madness I darn well went and did it myself. However by the time I got round to it, well there was only 1 team available to play, and they didn't feel it was proper to play us twice in 3 weeks. So we settled for doing them over once, then stuffing the reserves and U21's once a piece as well. No point having 8 strikers to put on the pitch if none of em are fit Pedro!

Our  1st competitive fixture came at the end of March. 1st round of the Zimbabwe Cup, we lucked out and got paired against another division 2 side. I say lucked out, I've no idea how good they are, or we are for that matter. They are called Sparrows, so we should smash them, if it came down to a rock, paper, scissors style contest, well then Falcon massacres Sparrow every damn time. We did indeed win 4-0, I rotated our 3 best strikers throughout the 90 minutes and the 3 of them bagged the 4 goals between them. I didn't really do much else. I had partaken in a rather heavy night with the ladies the evening before the game. Why you ask? Like I need an excuse... but seen as you ask, it was mostly due to me coping with the culture shock of a football season starting in March and not being nearly finished. On top of that, I had a job to do.

You see, I don't partake of the drugs, I've already told you that, chief sugar snorter that I am. I do not however restrict the ladies from enjoying the powder. It does make it a bit dicey trying to work out which line is yours when your drunk off your face. But when the ladies have had their fill, they usually pass out in a most contented fashion. Leaving me free to go through their personal effects. Such searches have taught me things, lets just say that one should not assume that a vibrating purse means the owner is getting an incoming call! But, the phones are the target, getting into the contacts gives me lists of numbers to pass on to my handler in order to track down dealers, pimps, more girls, information is power apparently. 

Into April, I'm pretty sure one of my regular girls is called April, but anyway, we are talking about the month here. Our 1st league game was at home to DC Academy and man it did not help my mood one bit. The most interesting thing that happened in the 1st half was a wild dog getting onto the pitch and urinating against the corner flag. At least I presume it was a wild dog, it looked pretty dishevelled, however if an owner has trained their dog to do that, all the more kudos to them. That and when it was announced we one travelling away supporter, I prodded Tanaka to get the trial "Be Competitive" poster I had designed and get it to him in the crowd. Made his day. The lads made my day finally in the 2nd half with 2 goals to send us 2nd in the table. Long may it continue. Now if you will excuse me I have to go celebrate this evening with April and her best friend. 

Edited by Mandy42
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I forgot to mention that with the start of the regular season, the transfer window has slammed shut. Pistol Pedro must have smashed back some Columbian marching powder that day, he signed five players. Three of them strikers... obviously. I came in the next day to see the updated squad sheet. Took me two attempts to focus on the page to be fair. But that second look... had me spraying my coffee across my desk. Tanaka does a good job of coming when I yell for him, mainly because I don't think he understands me. 

Anyway, I point accusingly at the sheet.

"Is someone playing a joke on me? With my accent? Or did we really sign a player called A. Sithole?" Turns out not only is it his real name, but Pedro found another player with the same surname, he does fabulous work. "So we have two Sitholes at the club now eh?" I shout after Tanaka as he leaves my office grinning. I'm not sure he actually understands me. I keep going back to the question I was asked at interview, how would I get on without knowing the language? I thought I was being pranked, I'd looked on Wikipedia, it showed English listed amongst the set of languages for the country. But it seems that Tanaka, and most of the lads speak Chewa, but we seem to be getting on well enough, least that is what I tell myself.

After our opening game against Academy we played Golden Eagles, now there is a top trumps match up for you! Falcons against Golden Eagles. Well it turned out to be a dead heat ending in a 3-3 draw! Definitely no urinating dogs needed for entertainment in that game. Speaking of that game and entertainment, you might have seen me on the Youtube. The viral video clip of some idiot manager in orange tracksuit bottoms and a yellow and pink tracksuit top cheering when what turns out to be the opposition team scored. Yeah that was me, and about those colours, we don't play in any of them, but it was what they had in stock at the shop when I needed new clothes.

During that incident Tanaka comes up to talk to me in the dugout. 

"Eh boss, why are you cheering the opposition team scoring?" At least that's what I think he is saying... I don't speak Chewa. My new theory is he opens his mouth, and my subconscious speaks to me through him. 

"What do you mean? we just scored!"

"No boss, we are playing in white today, we are the away team."

"What the actual.... we've played five games so far this season and we've been in blue every flaming time!"

"Are you drunk boss?"

"How dare you! I'm just hella hungover... surely the sunglasses make that blatantly obvious" It didn't get any better when we went 2 goals down after 15 minutes. Maybe our previous two competitive wins were the limit of our potential. Maybe I needed another drink. 

I am pretty sure there are plenty of characters in our squad. A Sithole not withstanding, another A comes to mind during this game. Admire Moyo, our goalkeeper, no relation to either of my backroom team with the same name. Shame really because I would have liked to have asked his relations how big the stones on his parents were to name their kid "Admire." I suppose I can understand the parental notion that you want your kid to grow up and be admired, but to make that call from the kids birth, that takes commitment. There is most definitely one thing I admire about him, the kid has an absolute cannon of a right foot. Which when you are playing no messing direct football straight out of the John Smiths handbook, a goalkeeper who can find the opposition penalty spot with only the 2nd bounce of the ball is pretty awesome. Which is why from the resulting restart, having played the ball back to Admire, two touches later and we have a goal back. I punch the air with delight and Tanaka gives me two thumbs up, the sarcastic git.

We are level before halftime, which is what we deserve from the run of play, Then before the hour mark we are in front 2-3, this management lark is easy! I'm on the verge of changing my order of girls for the evening from the commiserations batch to the celebrations batch, when only minutes after we took the lead the Eagles score.

"Taking the ****..." Tanaka says to me, or at least that's what I think he says, I don't speak Chewa.

"You want taking the ****? Taking the **** is contemplating starting partaking of Charlie of an evening with the girls, the rate I'm snorting sugar it's either that or get diabetes." Tanaka nods at me as if I had laid bare the wisdom of the universe to him, and wanders off.

3-3 it finished So I was stuck in two minds whether to pick commiserations or celebrations, so I just went with both.

Edited by Mandy42
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