Natural Soccer is a football game where you can bend the ball in impossible and ridiculous ways while it’s in mid-air. Besides this one trait, it’s a pretty ordinary – and very simple – take on the beautiful game, and while I was charmed at first sight I didn’t know quite whether it could keep me entertained for more than an hour or two. But after a while, I made a wonderful discovery. I realised that Natural Soccer is the perfect playground for role-playing as an undercover wizard who performs physics-breaking feats of socc-tacular splendour, but mustn’t draw too much attention to himself as he does so.
All you need to do is turn the Aftertouch settings up to full in the options menu; then choose a player on your team, pass the ball to him whenever you get the chance, and let your imagination soar. Look, I’ll show you. Read on, dear friend, and let me regail you with the magical but ultimately tragic tale of football wunderkind Georgie Roberts.
Georgie is too anxious to sleep. He sits in the dark, newspapers littering the kitchen table in front of him. The headlines jump out at him: “Roberts defies physics once again in 7-0 triumph over Liverpool”; “Magic Georgie scores twenty goals across three matches”; “Georgie Roberts’ blood/urine samples sent to Swiss lab for doping tests”.
His mind travels back to his last match, and the whispered words of his coach in the changing room replay themselves over and over in his head. “Just remember, Georgie. Just bend it like Beckham.” Words used not as one might expect – to aspire towards great things, perhaps – but as a warning to lay low, to hold back, and keep a lid on his abilities so as not to attract further unwanted attention.
But the moment Roberts and his team stepped onto the pitch, as always, those cautionary words were lost among the roaring chanting sea of tens of thousands of spectators, all come to witness “Magic Georgie” first-hand. Fans adore him. Analysts are baffled by him. Rivals fear him. That unassuming ginger-haired teenager whose mastery of the ball allows him to curve it into the net from impossible angles, whose shots almost – almost – seem to change direction in mid-air.
When he first broke out onto the football scene, Georgie’s arrogance overcame any of these needling worries. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, wizards and magic and telekinesis were just made-up things. He’d do his thing, become rich and famous and adored. No need to worry about consequences. They’d never suspect him, no matter how outlandish the goals he scored, no matter how many world records he smashed. No matter how many times his boots welded themselves to the ball as he made a laughing stock of the opposing team’s defence until they simply gave up trying to take the ball from him, and just stood in seething silence as “Magic Georgie” did his thing.
But now Georgie’s feeling the heat. Not just from the media and major associations looking to bring him down in time for the World Cup, but by some rather more dangerous organisations who have approached him or his team on several occasions now, each looking to capitalise on this wunderkind and his incredible “skills”. But all Georgie wants to do is play the beautiful game to the best of his ability, like everyone else on that pitch. And he’ll be damned if he’s gonna let them frighten him away from doing what he loves.
His fists curl around the edges of the table. Let them come, he thinks. He still has a World Cup ahead of him. And when he’s done, and they finally take him down, everyone will remember him as the greatest footballer of his – or any – generation. Bend it like Roberts, they’ll say – but of course no one can ever bend it like Roberts can.