At the football, always a reminder of innocent joy,
a stranger asked if he could sit next to me.
Our talk meandered to a famous team of the past.
I can't remember what prompted me to ask his name
but I thought his muttered response modest.
I asked him to spell it, to be certain,
this name of a champion cheered at my first game
when I was still starry-eyed with belief.
I recalled a brother, or a son, who played years later.
When I asked about their relationship
he hesitated before saying it was his brother.
He spoke of his own feats, inner sanctum scandals,
deflecting my surprise at how youthful he seemed,
this bearer of a name once lionised by thousands,
his body, though thickened, still strong.
When we shook hands after the game he looked sad.
Good with faces, I believed recognition had glimmered
despite features fleshed out by the years.
On the drive home I imagined telling my brother,
our shared interest delightfully stirred by chance.
The next morning I logged on, saw that ex-hero
now frail, gaunt, gravely ill in hospital.
I also found his years younger brother's bare stats,
bleak compared with the champion's. No photo.