This season, my son joined the local football team. He’d never shown much of an interest before, but the inevitable tractor beam eventually caught him in its glare and before we knew it, we had a goalkeeper on our hands. My wife, never much of a footie fan, developed a sudden and somewhat urgent pitchside passion and readied herself for his first game. It went well. She was delighted. We congratulated him all the way home. And then the sexism started.
“Clean your boots before you come inside,” she said. “I’ve no idea how you do it. It’s a man’s job. Ask your dad.” As it turned out, his dad had no idea either. Having been raised by a football loathing father – a man who has probably never so much as touched a football boot – I could only suggest looking it up on the internet, while I took his mother to task.
It turns out that other people I spoke to felt similarly. While they wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was “a bloke’s job”, they conceded that caring for the post-game football boots had always been a paternal thing; the dad in the family taught them how to wield the scrubbing brush. However, the general feeling was that, while it ultimately ought to be a job for the kids themselves, perhaps the learning process could be an experience that parent and child could share – possibly even bond over.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: why all of this soul searching and domestic grandstanding over a measly pair of football boots? Well, the truth is that they simply won’t clean themselves (turns out it’s not a cliché after all), and at the prices a decent pair currently commands, it’s well worth learning the tricks of the trade. A badly kept pair of football boots will become useless very quickly indeed, so treating them kindly is essentially a good way to protect your bank account.
…To which the sane follow-up question would be, why not just get a sponge out and give them a good old-fashioned scrub? Here’s why: a good pair of boots, the kind you might pay £70 for, is no longer a good old-fashioned garment. The modern boot is built to serve a precise purpose, and simply can’t be treated like Bobby Charlton’s leathery bald spot. Invariably, the material they are made of needs careful treatment, which is why you need to pick up the correct lubricant at the same time you buy the boots. The protector you purchase will keep them waterproof and supple, as well as holding onto their colour.
But before you start applying the protection, make sure the boots are clean. Start by getting them off your child’s feet – an obvious piece of advice, perhaps, but one worth taking care over. Tugging at them or knocking them off with the other boot isn’t going to help the leather. Simply loosen the laces and ease them off naturally. Scrape off any excess mud, and then rub them down with a damp cloth. Whatever you do, keep them away from the washing machine. They may look like they can take rugged treatment, but football boots are delicate specimens, and a power wash will damage their complexion (and most likely clog up your filters). Treat them gently and they’ll pay you back with years of good service.
Light, dry mud can be dealt with using an old toothbrush, but for anything heftier you’ll need a sturdier tool. Again, nothing too brittle as you could easily damage the leather. Other websites demand a “natural brush” – I’m not sure what a natural brush for football boots would look like, so I’d suggest that an old, dry washing up brush could be repurposed for this task.
Once everything looks spic and span, allow the boots to dry naturally. Drying them over heat will make the leather crack and the soles stiffen, which will hobble your budding Beckham somewhat. Leave them somewhere dry to do their own thing, and stuff them with balls of rolled up newspaper so that they keep their shape.
And that, in a nutshell, is what your child needs to know. Once they’ve got these instructions down pat, there’s really no need for you to stick around. As the old saying (almost) goes: if the boot fits, clean it.
My son and I picked out a pair of impressive-looking (but cheap) size 6 football boots from Sports Direct – similar boots are between £10-25.
Kai joined the Hampshire County Youth football team. For match information and to find out how to join the team contact Secretary Derek Harris.