Gallin gently forces open the heavy, ill-fitting door to the referees’ changing block to be immediately hit by the familiar pong of well-ripened muck, damp leather, ammonia, Ralgex and various indefinable but nonetheless appreciable scents of the body. It is a combination of smells you just don’t find – and would never tolerate – anywhere else.
‘Afternoon, gents,’ Gallin announces as he enters, pleased to see a couple of friendly faces.
‘Hello, mate,’ Trevor beams. ‘You officiating here today?’
‘Yeah, first time, but you know, different place, same old ****.’
‘Same old stench of ****,’ Darryn adds, rising to shake Gallin’s hand.
‘So what’s it like here, then?’
‘Yeah, alright,’ says Trevor with a nod, ‘pitches are decent, or all those I’ve been on, anyway. And never had any real issues with the home teams here, or nothing to write home about. You’ll be alright, I’m sure.’
‘Yeah, course I will,’ says Gallin nonchalantly, plonking his kit bag on the bench. He takes a deep breath and exhales rapidly, staring blankly at the muddy smear on the whitewashed brick wall a few inches in front of his nose.
‘So, how’s the arse this morning?’ Asks Darryn with a chuckle and wide smile.
‘Piss off!’
Darryn and Trevor laugh and after a moment Gallin joins in too, more than aware that his pre-match toileting habits were almost legend amongst a select few of the local refereeing community.
‘Mate, we all feel it. Ten years I’ve been doing this now, but I still get the butterflies,’ Trevor confesses. ‘I take it as sign of doing my job well, you know?’
‘Were you doing your job well last week?’ Darryn immediately exclaims, with a snort and a conspicuously mischievous tone.
‘Oh, ****-off!’
‘What’s this?’ Asks Gallin with excited inquisitiveness.
‘Four times he had them retake a ****ing throw-in,’ Darryn’s voice breaks into a hard cackle. ‘A meaningless throw. On the bloody halfway line.’
‘Yeah, doing my bloody job, wasn’t I?’ Trevor protests. ‘The rules are clear.’
‘Pedantic *******!’
The three men break into laughter, which quickly dwindles away to a thoughtful and absorbed silence, only disturbed by the muffled chafing of boot laces being tied and the zipping of a kit bag.
‘Right, just one more try,’ Gallin announces abruptly, hurriedly limping to the nearest toilet cubicle.
‘Here he goes, look!’
‘Oi-Oi! Better make it count!’

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Ben Ives and Ben Clayton
A&H International