LASESARRE, SPAIN - AUGUST 5: Puma Orbita, the official match ball of LaLiga in detail prior the pre-season friendly match between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad on August 5, 2022 at Lasesarre Stadium in Barakaldo, Spain. Noxthirdxpartyxsales PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxJPN 195228971

A big part of being a football fan is talking about the past. What’s better than sitting down with a pint as you recall historic moments, players and teams with your mates? These memories bring us feelings of euphoria, nostalgia and even heartbreak. But what if we could see into the future of football? In Fast-Forward Football we bring you exactly that; the most iconic stories yet to come.

It’s the year 2022, and a 27-year-old Georges-Kevin N’Koudou sits in the dressing room of Tottenham’s Enfield Training Centre. He is drenched after returning inside from a practice in the freezing rain only a half hour earlier. Most of the squad had left the dressing room for a spot of tea in the cafeteria, but not N’Koudou. Instead, he remains sat in front of his locker while contorting his fingers into a salute. He puts his index finger and thumb together, sticks the other three fingers out, and places his hand on his face.

“Dammit,” he says under his breath. It has been four years since Dele Alli introduced the world to his famous celebration, and poor George-Kevin still hasn’t been able to figure it out. The rest of the world has moved on, mastering the salute years ago. School children would run around North London mocking the Spurs winger.

“N’Koudou is a moron, N’Koudou is a moron,” they used to jeer at him. It was now the harsh reality of what his life had become.

His inability to figure it out, or rather his persistence to do so, has overshadowed his brilliant footballing ability. Nobody expected him to net 25 goals during the 2018/19 season, but he did. Nobody expected him to lead his team to its first Champions League in 2020 while netting 13 goals in the entire tournament, three of which came in the final. And certainly, nobody expected him to earn a Ballon d’Or nomination this year after captaining France a World Cup semifinals. They just weren’t good enough to beat Argentina with Dybala up top.

The kit-man walks into the dressing room, and without having to look over says, “at it again, are you Georgie?”

N’Koudou’s frustration builds inside him like a burning fire, but on the outside, he smiles. He can’t let them know how much it bothers him.

“Oh, you know me, just messing around,” replies the Frenchman, repressing his rage behind the smile plastered on his face.

“Of course,” replies the kit-man, “as you were Georgie.”

After a few more minutes of trying, Georges-Kevin makes his way up to the cafeteria to grab a quick bite before heading home. Most of the players have already left Enfield, but Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier remain. The trio is sitting at a table playing a game of Go Fish, and wave over at N’Koudou to join them.

“Another stellar performance in training again today Georgie,” says Kieran as slams down the last two cards in his hand. “Another win for the Trippster,” he gloats at his English teammates.

“For the last time Kieran, that nickname will never catch on,” says Harry.

Dele Alli pulls out his phone hands it to N’Koudou, “have you seen this video?”

Georges-Kevin’s face turns red. As his head drops, he gets up to leave.

“Awe, it was just a joke man,” says Dele empathetically, “sit down and play a hand with us.”

“Fine, deal them out,” says N’Koudou reluctantly.

An awkward silence fills the room as Harry Kane deals out the cards. Last season Kane broke the Premier League all-time top scorer record, claiming the title that belonged to Alan Shearer for so many years before. After breaking the record, the striker lost interest in football. Harry only really cared about the goal scoring records. He was virtually non-existent in the FA Cup semi-final six months ago.

“You know we like you for who you are, Georgie,” says Alli, “it doesn’t matter if you can do a silly hand gesture. It’s actually quite lame.”

As the last card is dealt, Georgie realizes that he doesn’t need to know secret hand gestures to be ‘cool’. All he needs are his friends and a deck of cards.

“You got any threes, Georgie?” asks Trippier.

N’Koudou smiles. This time he means it. “Go Fish!”