Annika Sturm is German and has been living in England for over 10 years. Aside from working in marketing, she loves running, hanging out with her friends and has very recently started writing just for fun. As she is fascinated by football, she would love to see more open-mindedness towards homosexuality in sports in future.
This is the story of two boys, two friends, two professional footballers. One day they discover they have feelings for each other that go beyond just friendship. Suddenly the boys find themselves having to make difficult decisions with life-changing consequences. Together they embark on a tough journey against prejudice and discrimination. Can their affection for each other survive in the world of football?
This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of geographic facts and references of football teams and tournaments, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Alex sighed when he woke up. He was lying in bed in his house in Hamburg. It was mid-morning, quite late really, but today was a rest day and quite frankly he felt he deserved a bit of a lie-in. His girlfriend Emma was up already, he could hear her playing downstairs with his two year-old son Max. Any other day he would have jumped out of bed to join in and spend time with them. But not today.
The defeat the day before was too much to take. 4-0 he had lost with his football club against their biggest city rival. He had almost broken down on the pitch he had felt that sick and desperate. He had seen his pitiful self in the news that evening and had felt nothing but disgust for what his career had come to.
He loved Hamburg. It was his home town, his home club was here. But he couldn’t keep losing like this. With such poor performance there was a chance he wasn’t going to be selected for the national team anymore and therefore not play at the World Cup in the summer. ‘I should have just moved on when Tommy left.’ He closed his eyes as he remembered the day before.
When he had checked his phone after the match he’d had a voicemail from Tom. ‘Alex, are you okay? I saw the end of the match. I thought you were going to collapse for a minute. Call me, please. I just want to know you are alright.’ Alex smiled thinking of the message. Tom really was his best friend. Still, after all those years. He couldn’t quite describe it but he has always been special to him. They used to play in the same club and became really close. ‘This is pathetic.’ Alex cursed but he missed Tom, there was no point in denying it. Yet he wasn’t going to be able to see him for another few months until the national team would meet again, for which both boys still played together.
When Alex had called him back, Tom had had to leave a bar in Dortmund celebrating a victory with his current team to even hear him. ‘Alex! Bloody hell, are you okay? I was worried about you.’ ‘As usual.’ Alex had laughed quietly. ‘Yeah well, no, more than usual actually. I thought you were going to collapse or something.’ Alex had put on a brave voice. ‘Oh come on, I’m used to this shit.’ He had forced a laugh. Tom hadn’t found it funny. ‘I’m sorry I can’t be there for you. I wouldn’t have let you get into such a state. You know that.’ ‘You’re there for me now. Aren’t you?’ Alex had said. ‘You know what I mean. It’s not the same over the phone is it? Jesus, Alex I just want to see you smile again.’ Alex had bitten his lip. ‘You need to go back inside and celebrate Tommy,’ he had said clearing his voice, ‘I’ll be okay. I always am.’ ‘Are you sure? Alright. Take care of yourself do you hear me? I’m always here for you, remember that.’ ‘Bye Tommy.’ Alex had hung up way too quickly but he couldn’t bear listening to his voice anymore.
Alex forced himself to sit up in bed and ran his hands over his face. ‘Pathetic.’ He got up, slowly put on his dressing gown and opened the bedroom door. He looked over the landing down into his living room where Max was playing noisily with his toys. ‘Daddy, daddy!’ His little face beamed up at Alex and he couldn’t help but smile and feel better straight away. ‘Yeah, alright, alright, daddy is coming down now.’ Alex went downstairs and grabbed and cuddled his son. ‘Morning grumpy,’ his girlfriend Emma smiled at him and bent down to give him a kiss, ‘did Tommy get hold of you in the end?’ She asked in passing. Alex looked at her confused. ‘Tommy?’ ‘Yes. You know your best friend. Remember him?’, she laughed, ‘he called here twice yesterday and said he couldn’t get hold off you on your mobile. He almost had me worried too!’ ‘Oh,’ Alex said trying to hide a sad smile, ‘yes I called him back.’ ‘Typical Tommy.’ He thought.
He turned the television on and threw himself onto the couch gazing outside the window. It was a cold and rainy November day. Max was playing on the floor in front of him. Emma walked over and sat next to Alex. ‘I know you are down about it all. What do you fancy doing today?’ She snuggled up to him. ‘Actually, nothing’, he stroked her leg, ‘please don’t be cross but I just want to slouch and feel sorry for myself’. He stared back at the television. ‘Of course. Great,’ Alex didn’t pay any attention, ‘can you at least keep an eye on Max please?’ ‘Yeah sure.’ He mumbled. In the old days, he would have jumped into the car and driven to see Tom. They would have played Xbox games and kicked a football round all afternoon.
As Emma was in Max’s room tidying up, the doorbell rang. Alex moaned. ‘I’m not here!’, he shouted towards Emma. She came out of Max’s room and walked towards him. The doorbell rang again, ‘not here.’ Alex looked at her seriously. ‘Come on Max,’ Emma walked towards their son, ‘come and see who is at the door with mummy.’ She gently took Max’s hand and they slowly walked down the stairs. ‘Probably some of Emma’s girlfriends, that’s the last thing I need.’ Alex thought, still in a mood.