Girls just wanna... make fun of me
My childhood nightmares are coming back to haunt me. Girls are better than me at football.
That's not a sexist statement, just one of fact.
Brazilian girls are not slightly better than me. They are "dribble-the-ball-around-me-then-come-back-and-nutmeg-me-before-rubbing-my-face-in-the-sand" better than me.
This Brazilian tour for the World Cup is turning into one long childhood flashback.
It's all karma of course. I teased a girl earlier in the week and now womankind is standing up for her and wreaking revenge.
I was making a TNP video of a beach volleyball game on the famous Ipanema Beach and every time she prepared to serve, I shouted: "Excuse me, are you the girl from Ipanema?"
"No, I'm not," she replied. "I'm from Botafogo."
The next time she served I whistled the tune and cried: "But you're that one, right? The girl from Ipanema?"
"No, I told you. I live in Botafogo."
She didn't laugh. I suspect female residents get it all the time. (And for younger readers, The Girl From Ipanema is a famous Brazilian bossa nova song.)
Still, I left them to their beach volleyball. I wasn't really fitting in and my G-string was starting to itch. Honestly, men, women and children all wear G-strings on Brazilian beaches. From a distance, they look like they have a single, stray hair hanging down the crack.
The G-strings on Brazilian beaches have to be seen to be believed.
They're so small, I'm convinced their owners whip them off after a steak dinner, use them to clean between their teeth before pulling them back on again.
Everyone's got something hanging out somewhere on a Brazilian beach. That's not why I was hanging out there. I was making videos for TNP's online app. (That's my story, officer, and I'm sticking to it. Those photos and videos were only for research purposes.)
I stumbled across a couple of girls doing kick ups (or keepy-uppy, or ball juggling, whatever you prefer) and for a moment I became a tad colonial and a bit of a sexist Stone Age man.
"Come on girls," I said confidently. "We invented the game and gave it to the world. Give me that ball and let me show you how it's done. Then you can make my dinner and knit me a jumper."
I didn't really say the last part, but I might as well have done. And they beat me.
Well, when I say beat me, I mean wiped the floor with me in front of a dozen giggling locals and some drunken tourists on Copacabana Beach.
If I hadn't stopped them from juggling the damn ball in the air, bouncing it off their laces and knees like those girls in Bend it like Beckham, they'd still be there, compounding my humiliation.
I was devastated, my pathetic masculinity stripped away with every one of their effortless flicks and fancy headers.
That's our thing. That's all men can do. We drink beer. We do kick-ups.
Don't ask us to split the atom or even fix a broken plug. Just give us a ball and watch us do our thing.
Interestingly, there's been much talk this week about the phrase "run like a girl" or "play like a girl" or "juggle a ball on Copacabana Beach like a girl".
The complaint being of course that the expression is insulting, suggesting that feminine attributes are somehow inferior. This is of course utter nonsense.
So I want to be very clear. I didn't juggle a ball like a girl. I didn't get anywhere close.
I dream of juggling a ball like a Brazilian girl. I juggle balls like the 1.94m human beanpole, part-time Olive Oyl impersonator that I am.
Rather pathetically, I started hunting girls who looked rubbish at football in a desperate effort to reassert my flagging manhood.
They all beat me. Brazilian beaches breed solid football technique.
In a final, pitiful, shameful attempt to salvage my dignity, I blurted out to some teenagers that I was a retired footballer working in Brazil as a media commentator.
"Yes, I played for West Ham briefly, many, many years ago," I said matter-of-factly.
One of the teenage girls eyed my gangly frame before replying: "But you don't look like a proper footballer."
Clearly, she has never seen West Ham play.