Part I here.
So how exactly did Goran Bunjevčević kill me?
I’m dreaming. A standard run of the mill dream. I’m walking along a high street whilst watching a commotion across the street. Nothing serious. An argument which then turns into a fight. But it was still nothing too serious. More comical. It looked like they were all flapping their hands at each other in the most wimpish way possible. I laughed, lost concentration momentarily and tripped over.
But rather than allow gravity to do it’s clever pulling me down to the ground thing, I end up floating before hitting concrete with face. And for the next twenty or so yards, I continue to float (just above the ground) until repositioning myself upright and on both feet. I think to myself, ‘that was pretty cool’. And then the trigger kicks in.
‘I can fly. Just like in a dream’.
I look around and can’t quite place my surroundings. I’m still uncertain, even though I’ve accepted that flying isn’t possible in real life. So if this wasn't real life...?
I’ve yet to go completely lucid. I keep looking around and then look back on the street I’ve walked up from and try to and picture how I got here. How did I travel to this place? I can’t quite remember. So I attempt to think back to the last thing I was doing before being here.
I then have flashes of being at work. Travelling. Getting home. Eating. Watching tv. Then going to bed.
Bed. That’s it. I went to bed. And I can’t remember getting out of it. Which means I'm still asleep.
The trigger is unequivocally pulled. I’m dreaming. So I say it out loud. ‘I’m dreaming’. The surrounding area is then engulfed by Technicolor and I awake in my subconscious playground.
Now, usually when this happens, the first thing I do is look around to see if there are any fit women to harass. You’d do the exact same thing so don't you dare shake your head at me. Alas, nothing of interest that I can see, other than the skirmish which had literally snowballed into a mass ball of punches which rolled past me as it made its way up the street.
And up the street is where I decided to go.
As I made my way towards what resembled a town centre, the street curved and I’m suddenly bang in the middle of what feels like a carnival atmosphere just without the music and floats. I also notice it's now late evening. I can smell burgers cooking. The sky is a moody and a majestic red. I continue to walk through the crowds of people made up predominately by blokes.
Blokes who are all staring at me.
Nothing malicious in their glares. In fact, I’m almost being drowned in waves of smiles and comforting pats on the back. People nodding and winking at me with star-struck recognition and gentle applause. The further into the crowd I go, the more smiling which then turns into (inaudible) chanting. I can’t make out what they’re singing but it’s in my honour and it’s a good-feel vibe.
Centre of attention. Quite a rare experience because usually I prefer not to attract too much attention – unless I want hordes of people chasing after me. The crowds were no longer walking, just buzzing around outside what looked like a 1970s football ground. Old fashion boxed in stands. Plenty of wood and painted signs. Looked completely out of place but quite magnificent with the evening sky brooding over it.
I decided I was going to be playing football. I have to be playing football. Why else would I be recognised and have songs sang around me as I approached the ground?
The crowds queued for the turnstiles. I walked towards what I assume has to be the reception area and I’m greeted by an old(ish) looking bloke who welcomes me without words and shakes my hand. I decide that he’s Bill Nicholson. He’s not. He looks nothing like him. And when I hug the man and ask ‘where you playing me tonight Bill? Centre-mid or up front’ he just stares back and laughs nervously, almost like he was embarrassed for me for embarrassing myself.
This is one of the many quirks of dreams. This old man, his only role was to greet me. It’s like being in a movie where the main star improvises a scene and the actor opposite him has no idea how to react to something not in the script and wants the director to just shut out ‘cut’.
I continue walking and find myself weaving in and out of hall ways, eventually finding one that leads to the main tunnel which leads out onto the pitch. Either side are the dressing rooms. Home and away I guess. I walk up to the end of the tunnel and take a quick glance at the ground. The stands are heaving. Wonderful dream dynamics at play in the way of visuals. The ground is like the Tardis. From the outside, small and compact. Inside, there are about 60,000 to 70,000 fans. Noise is immense. The chanting, once again inaudible. I can’t work out the club and can’t tell if there are any away fans or not. Banners and confetti and drums. And the red sky above is still looking down majestically with moody night clouds gathering.
It's a beautiful beautiful image.
I go back down the tunnel and attempt to open one of the dressing room doors. It’s not locked, but it feels like someone (or perhaps more than just one) is pushing the door closed. I can hear voices, aggressive shouts of disdain from within. I decide to try the other door. It opens, I walk in.
There’s a battle cry, not because I happened to walk in. All the players getting changed and prepared punch the air and shout ‘FOR THE WAR’. I’m not greeted or shown the same type of attention the fans outside gave me. Just a knowing nod here and there. I was expected to be present. One of the lads.
I get given a kit to change into. The kit colours are white. A detail I’m thankful for. The badge not something I recognise. A combination of beast and tree.
I look around, and ask out loud ‘who are we playing?’
‘The enemy, for the war' I’m told by John Charles. The Gentle Giant himself, in black and white (literally, he was completely grey like he was plucked out from an old newspaper). I also see George Best lacing up his boots, bearded and youthful. And next to him, George Best. Twin brother? Doppelgänger? Who am I to question being in the presence of two Bests? For the record, twin Best had no beard and was also wearing a tight top. Yes, it was pink.
Also present in the room wearing shorts and boots:
-The Jolly Green Giant (I have a theory that seeing John Charles inspired the sudden emergence of the rather big animated quaint hulk).
-Various 1930s style footballers all looking rather debonnaire and serious.
-Sergio Aragonés ‘Groo the Wanderer’.
-Lord Lucan (with an accompanying afro and Sony cassette walkman).
The more I look around trying to put names to faces, the better it gets.
Greaves. Di Stefano and Puskas. El Diego. This is more like it. Genuine footballing legends to go alongside the aforementioned Charles. My brain is beginning to churn out the players I’d like to stand alongside with on the pitch.
The sound outside the dressing room, down the tunnel and within the shadows of the four stands is now thunderous. We’re all dressed, all ready to go. Smacking each other around the face to pump each other up. Yes, smacking. I got smacked around the face by a rather impish looking Steve Archibald who had to jump to get his hand up to plant a right-hander across my cheek. Archibald was a hobbit, complete with fat hairy feet (he wore no boots). I slapped him back. I had to bend down to do it and he was annoyed I didn't smack him hard. Which I didn't. Because he was so small and I took pity.
He bite me in the leg and run away.
The team then walked out of the dressing room and into the tunnel, all twenty or so of us. Probably more in fact. It was hard to tell, I kept seeing new faces and losing some old ones. The other dressing room door remained closed.
‘Don’t worry about them’ I hear voiced.
I also hear what sounds like a muffled song, a radio playing, but can’t focus or see where it’s coming from.
The dream had me a little mesmerised at this point, just moments away from taking the field. I was lucid, yet accepted the role of a passenger. A tourist. I found myself in a football ground and part of a super-human team of players plucked from the history books, randomness and probably bits and pieces of daily consumption that my brain had processed during the course of the day before I feel asleep.
I also had questions that needed answering which I looked forward to finding out.
What was the war? Who exactly is the enemy? What the f**k was behind the other dressing room door?
Up ahead of us, the ref and his assistants. Around six or seven men dressed in all black with sub-machine guns and swords. New FIFA directive I guess. Maradona approaches me and begins talking in what can only be described as Queens English. Very posh. He also had a quivering Rio Ferdinand lip. He tells me I’m a good lad and to be a team player. Very concise and articulate and also in context what with it being more than passable as a pre-match pep talk. He also tells me not to swear or curse.
‘It’s wrong and God will judge you’.
I smile. I’m now the one star-struck. I’m really lost in it all by this point. The players start running out onto the pitch, not waiting for the away team to line-up. Their dressing room door still closed.
The Jolly Green giant, on all fours, crawls past me making his way through the tunnel then stands tall once out on the pitch to rapturous applause and begins to tap dance.
I look back at the closed dressing room door. No sign of the other team. Maradona waves at me as he takes to the pitch. I can hear the radio again and distorted singing and talking. Then, directly in front of me as I walk under the archway before stepping out into the cauldron of noise – my grandfather appears.
This is a reoccurring trend. He points at me, gesturing his finger widely. I don’t move. Even a lucid dream can leave you feeling haunted. I walk up to him, with one eye on the pitch and it looks like the game is about to start. The opposing team were already on the pitch. Either that or they somehow made it there without me noticing. Another wonderfully annoying quirk of the dream arc, jumping around like a Quentin Tarantino movie ignoring a traditional linear narrative.
I looked back down the tunnel, noted the ‘away’ dressing room door was open. And my grandfather was now standing there, ignoring me, as he walks in.
The game had now started. I still couldn’t work out who the opposition were made up of. I could see Maradona who was clearly infuriated at my lack of movement, watching from within the tunnel. He continued his screaming at me to run onto the pitch as I walked towards the dressing room that my grandfather had disappeared into. He got so irate he removed his head and throw it at me, missing me by inches as it bounced down the tunnel and disappeared. I looked back at Diego on the pitch, who had now grown a new head and had turned into fat Diego. He sank into the turf and disappeared like a man caught in fast working quick sand.
I remained standing at the away dressing room entrance. The room was completely empty. It felt eerie.
I decided instead to just go and play some footie. I'd be damned to be following ghosts around and no doubt my grandfather will appear in another dream at another time. As I jogged up the tunnel eager to hear the crowds reaction as I appeared before them, I suddenly felt a numbing feeling across my waist and I suddenly found myself being pulled down to the ground. Except, I didn’t actually fall down. The reason gravity was winning was because my legs – both of them – were no longer attached to the rest of my body.
No pain felt in dreams. But it was still unnerving. The radio sound was now very loud. Indistinguishable, but it dulled out the football chanting. I looked around to find my legs. Shuffling. Struggling. I couldn’t muster the strength to attempt to re-attach. I couldn’t change my dream environment either. I was stuck there, on the floor. I felt a disturbing lack of control over my predicament.
I was alone.
And then I was not alone.
Out of nowhere stood a sinister looking Goran Bunjevčević. With lightsaber.
Which explained the sudden loss of my groin area and legs, leaving me a little stumpy.
“You will never play football again” he said, without the need to move his lips.
The tunnel no longer led out to the pitch. No archway, replaced by a wall. I could no longer hear any noise from the stands. Just the increasingly annoying radio.
He held the saber to my face and then lifted it up, holding it tightly with both hands. I could see where this was heading.
Two choices. I could quite easily let go of the lucid state and just wake myself up. All I would need to do is just think about the dream being lucid and that it’s a dream. The more I think about waking up will trigger me to actually wake up. I decided no harm could be done by just waiting for him to hit my over the head with the Jedi weapon of choice. So what if he does?
It’s a dream. I can’t die.
I look up at Goran and tell him to f**k his mother.
‘Die’. He replies.
Down comes the lightsaber. The radio music is now very clear and I can hear people talking and laughing.
I guess he split me in two because I can remember peeling to the left and to the right, my vision sliced.
'Don't come back' he says as my lucid dream begins to quickly evaporate. I wake up in my own bed, staring at the ceiling. Questions left answered. Not a single ball kicked. I playfully rub my forehead, just to make sure I'm awake and I have no lightsaber lodged in my skull.
The sonofab*tch killed me. He killed me and he woke me up. A dream character with an agenda actually succeed in removing me from my fantasy. I was evicted from my own subconscious in brutal fashion.
The radio and the talking coming from outside was the usual Monday morning wake-up call, market traders setting up their stalls directly outside (on the high road). It was around 7am.
I attempted to fall asleep and re-enter lucidity but failed. In the months that followed, I also failed to cross paths with the Beckenbaueresque defender and equally failed to conjure up his return by fixating on him when lucid. My quest to find the Serbian Sith continued for months in vein.
I also found it nigh impossible to play football in a lucid dream (or normal dream) since he cut me in half then quartered me. I was jinxed. I never found a football ground in a dream or any known footballers or even kids kicking a ball about in the road.
Jinxed? Cursed. Goran had activated a fail safe blocking me from fulfilling this one important past time. Who or what was he? I was never destined to find out.
That is, until two months ago. When I came face to face with him again.
And this time, I was tooled up.
This was part 6 and the final part of the International Break Diary II