I was walking along a field in Belo Horizonte when I came across the strangest thing.
I stood and examined it. It was round. It weighed about 14-16 ounces, and its circumference was 28 inches. Too big for golf, surely, but what did that leave?
I felt it was unlikely that such a large object would be appropriate for either baseball or cricket.
The bat would have to correspond in size. Likewise tennis, and it's my understanding that squash is played with something called a shuttlecock - which is a coincidence, because right at the very moment I was giving the matter a great deal of thought, I heard someone scream an abbreviation of that word in my direction.
I turned around and glared at him. He was wearing a yellow shirt and a pair of blue shorts. It was an absurd get-up, and I haughtily ignored the fellow. Another man walked by. I could tell he was European by his pale skin and also by his good manners. He gave me a sympathetic smile.
I said to him, "Excuse me, but d'you by any chance know what this curious object is? I've never seen it before, and am deeply puzzled as to what should be done with it." He said, "You could try kicking it." I said, "Like this?"
DAVID LUIZ O heavenly father who art in heaven which is above me where I am pointing right now with two fingers held aloft. O protect us from the Hun for although they are from a Christian country they are not as Christian as I am.
Nobody on Earth is apart from your son O heavenly father.
O Jesus hey how's it going?
Do you wear your hair like this, too?
O shampoo and conditioner get behind me for you are the liquids of Satan.
O well best tie up my boots and lead Brazil to victory as ordained by God.
FRED He said, "Nein, because you missed, and kicked at thin air. Try again. And kick it that way, towards goal." I said, "Like this?"
NEYMAR My back. My back. So much . . . pain. I can't move. All I can do is lie here in my hospital bed in so much . . . pain.
Zuniga! Zuniga, you son of a bitch! No. That's football. He wasn't trying to hurt me and cause me so much . . . pain.
The days pass. The nights pass. The drugs try to numb the . . . pain.
Fred! David Luiz! Julio Cesar! Some guy with an Afro! I am with you! Nurse! Turn on the TV! We are about to play Germany! Forza Brazil! Forza Brazil! Forza Brazil!
FRED He said, "Nein, because you just kicked it into the crowd, who right at this moment give every impression of wanting to tear you limb from limb, so I suggest you put on a disguise and leave Brazil immediately." I said, "Like this?"
NEYMAR Nurse! Turn the TV off! So much . . . so much . . . so much pain.
DAVID LUIZ O dios O God O Christ.
JULIO CESAR After the first goal we just had a blackout.
Nobody expected it. Honestly, it's hard to explain. You can't explain the inexplicable. I mean I suppose it's something to do with the fact we were absolutely useless, and it's possible Neymar's agent had a point when he described our manager Scolari as an "arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous old jerk", but football's a funny old game and these things happen, although not often, in fact nothing like this has ever happened.
The important thing is not to point the finger at anyone and play the blame game. Oh, look. There's Fred.
FRED He said, "Ja, that's very good, mein herr. You look good in that suit. You don't look like a footballer. Mind you, you didn't much look like one anyway. But now you look like a businessman - or a politician. A politician with a hunted and haunted look. A politician on the run. "You'll need a new name, too. What do you want to call yourself?"
"Murray," I said.
- Sunday Star Times