A man is found floating in the Mediterranean Sea. He is nursed back to health but cannot remember a thing. Who is he? How did he end up in the sea? The only thing he can remember is how to play a good game of football. We follow his journey through football management to discover his identity and destiny.
The New York Times
Wednesday 17 January 1979
Tehran, 16 January – Iran. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi were seen leaving Iran in Mehrabad airport. The Shah has abdicated the Peacock Throne, leaving prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar in charge to calm the tension which has grown between the Republic opposition and the Shah rule.
It is believed that Mohammad Reza had been forced to flee Iran due to President Carter’s decision to back the Revolution Party, but this is unknown as Carter refuses to comment.
With him, his family are expected to reside in Egypt until the Shah government reclaim stability in Tehran …
Associated Local Press (North East England)
Thursday 15 July 2004
South Shields, 14 July – England. Three men have been found shot dead in Oasis Amusements, Sea Road, South Shields. All three had been found with single shots to their bodies. Police believe the killings are related to a drugs ring which the police were monitoring. Over a million pounds of crack cocaine were seized and have been prevented from getting on the streets, however, James Bond has not yet been found.
Sports Page (Back Page)
Reza Retires – Ex South Shields and Sunderland midfielder retires from the game at the age of 22 due to a break down in his mental health. Reza had told Mick McCarthy, that he has fallen out with the game and needs time to be himself. It is believed that Johnny Reza has had a heart to heart chat to McCarthy following three years of loan moves and injuries.
Julio Arca, Sunderland Defender has said “Today is a sad day for football. Johnny could have gone a long way in the game. But I think he needs to be given time to reflect.”
3 February – 2020.
The early sun broke through the mist of the sky, lending glitter to the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The skipper of the fishing boat, his tired eyes bloodshot, and hands marked with rope burns and nicotine sat on the stern of the boat smoking a cigarette, relaxed at the sight of the smooth sea. He glanced over at a crewman who was checking the net several feet away. He then glanced over at the wheelhouse; the young driver had opened the throttle to make for better time. They needed to get back to shore to ensure that their catch was at its freshest for mix of customers from the highbrow restaurant which over looked the sea and overpriced the fish by 200% and the local café which would serve the skipper and his crew their breakfast when they got back every morning. The skipper looked like he was about to nod off to catch 20 minutes of sleep before getting back to shore.
POOOOORT BOW! The young driver yelled Catching the attention of the dozing skipper. ‘There’s a man in the water!’ The skipper shouted back. ‘He’s holding on to something! A suitcase, I think’ the young driver said back.
The skipper took to the wheel and edged the boat to the right of the floating man, cutting the engine to reduce the wake.
‘Loop the ropes!’ the skipper yelled to the young driver and the crewman. ‘Get them around his legs and up to his waist, gently, gently.’
‘He won’t let go of the case!’
‘Reach down! And pry them off’
‘He can’t be alive?’ ‘He is alive…barely, I think.’ ‘His eyes move but I doubt he sees us!’
‘Lift him up, on the count of three… One…Two…Three!’ ‘Easy now, gently put him down here.’
‘Oh, my goodness, look at him!’
‘Let us get back to shore, as quickly as possible. We can get him to the doctor on the waterfront.’
‘The drunk who has been here for a few years? ‘I’m not sure what he will do!’
Whistles of fishing boats clashing with the screeching sounds of the gulls, formed the universal sounds of the waterfront. It was early morning; the sun was still too low to have warmed the sand.
The young driver ran a head to wake the doctor. He was found in a drunken stoop. His head pressed against his desk and legs slumped on a black office chair.
‘Wake up! Wake up you old fool!’ The young driver yelled at the doctor.
‘We have found a body in the water!’ ‘And Giani thinks he is still alive!’ ‘You need to help!’
The skipper then crashed through the open doorway with the body slumped in a wheelbarrow. Both the skipper and the young boat driver then hauled the wet body on to the table in the doctor’s office.
The doctor had come around from the hazy alcohol induced sleep and quickly appeared alert. His floppy blonde hair was sweaty and stuck in the shape of the flat desk he had been found.
The skipper turned to him and said a prayer hoping that the man they had found would come back to life.
The doctor started to prod at the wet suit the body was wearing. He had noticed that the body had been shot multiple times in the back. He proceeded to cut at the wetsuit with his scalpel with delicate incisions around the gunshot wounds. The wounds were surprisingly shallow. The doctor then removed three bullets from the back of the body. He then noticed a lump under the skin of the bodies right hip. The doctor then carefully cut into the skin and removed the lump. It was metallic, maybe a tracking devise, yet it looked like a USB stick.
The doctor wondered over to the sink and taps in his office. He wiped the newly found stick of blood and then went over to his desktop computer. He pushed in the USB stick and a file opened automatically. The file contained a message in a foreign text. Which read ‘شما تلاش این است که به پس گرفتن سرزمین پدران خود و منجر به پرشیا برای تبدیل شدن به بزرگ یک بار دیگر’
After the text, the numbers 35.816664 51.422539 were displayed.
The doctor then checked that the bodies vital signs were constant, reassured he went back to the bottle which had comforted him during the previous night.
Any day now, any time perhaps. The stranger would come round and open his eyes and speak his first words.
The words came first. They hit the doctor in a sudden sobering moment.
‘Who’s there? Who is in this room?’
Doctor Elliott bolted up like he had just been woken by the recurring dream where he had discovered a cure for cancer. He went straight over to the stranger.
‘A friend,’ he said softly.
‘You speak English. I assumed you would speak French or Greek. Your dental work was certainly from the UK or Paris. How do you feel?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘It will take a while. My name is James Elliott. I am your doctor. What’s yours?’
‘I asked you what your name was.’
The stranger looked at the white wall and then through the window where he could see the sea in the distance glistening in the midday sun. ‘I don’t know’
‘Oh my god.’
‘It will come, take your time, and rest old boy.’
‘In your coma – your prolonged coma – you spoke in different languages. English, French, German, Italian and some weird throaty tongue twisting thing I assume is from the Middle East. It means you’re multilingual, at home in various parts of the world. What is most comfortable for you?’
‘English, I think.’
‘Your skin tone suggests you do not originate from England or at least your parents might not have. Do you have any childhood memories?’
‘Just a red and white top. I may have worn it as a kid. Nothing else.’
‘That’s good old boy try not to stress yourself too much. You also shouted out football related instructions during your coma. Do you have any memories about the sport?’
‘Just the red and white top.’ The stranger said, and he was starting to look anxious.
‘Rest. You do not need to rush. I will help you until you are strong enough.’
The man sat forward in the chair. His open shirt fell away from his taut frame, exposing the bandages that wrapped around his chest and back. He squeezed both of his hands into fists, the veins in his slender, muscular arms pronounced. ‘Other than the things we have talked about, was there anything else I said while in a coma?’
‘No, not really. Mostly gibberish. But at times you would thrash about like you were either fighting or playing football in your sleep. Come. Let’s go for a walk. You’ll get the chance to stretch your legs and catch some fresh air.’
‘Am I ready to go outside?’
‘I think it will help you in the long run. It may help you build your strength to start some exercise, which will in turn help you strengthen your mind.’
The walk started from Doctor Elliott’s building which was tucked slightly away from the marina. They walked inland passing through a park. The open space gave the man a sense of freedom after feeling couped up in the surgery for so long.
There was a football match being played, the pitch lines were not clearly unmarked, and the goals were being marked out by two jumpers at either end. The ball rolled into the path of the man after a goal had been scored. A bald-headed man had wheeled away in celebration. The man casually struck the ball with his right foot, causing the ball to loop up and over towards the goalkeeper who had just conceded the goal. He caught the ball and shook his right hand afterwards due to the power in the pass. The group of boys and men waved in gratitude.
‘You’ve not lost it!’ said the doctor.
‘That felt good’ replied the man.
‘Why don’t you come here when you feel stronger? They’re always looking for others to join in.’
The man had a reassured smile on his face. And they continued with their walk.
A few weeks had past and the man had been running around some of the island, his stamina had clearly returned as the time trials had reduced sharply over the last few days.
The doctor chirped ‘Getting quicker? You must be ready to tackle some of the boys on the park?’
That familiar feeling
The park was busy with people running through it, and a football match had just started on the grass. The man jogged over and offered his services to whichever side would need the extra player.
He was thrown a blue bib by a short guy wearing a red bib, who looked like he lived and breathed football. ‘I’m Michael’ said the short guy. ‘That’s Ryan’ pointing at a slightly young lad. ‘Ask him where he wants you play.’ Ryan pointed and the man took up his position.
The match started and the ball was like a magnet at Michael’s feet. Until the man ran through with a well-timed tackle. He then continued to dribble with the ball weaving past the opposition before delivering a beautiful cross to Ryan, who headed the ball into the goal past the flailing goalkeeper. Ryan and the man cheered along with sharing a high five.
Michael was not happy. He was the best player on the pitch, usually, and this stranger had made him look a fool.
The game continued and every time Michael got the ball, the man would tackle him, dribble off and either pass the ball with great accuracy or shoot at goal with pinpoint accuracy.
The match concluded. And Michael’s Reds had been beaten. Michael’s ego had been bruised but he acknowledged the talent the man had shown. Ryan chirped ‘This fella was awesome, he not only bossed you out of the game, but he was teaching me things to help my own game’.
Michael said ‘Who are you? You played like some Premier League veteran. You have gotta come to training tonight. Are you free?’
‘Yeah, I’m game. Training for what and who?’ said the man.
‘Siren’s! Sirens FC. I’m here to boost the club’s chances of European qualification for next season and because we’re in the Europa League. I’m sure Steve would welcome you in the club.’
‘Sure, what time?’
‘Training starts at five, it’ll be a lot of running. It’s preseason and Steve is a bit old school. Meet me at the stadium ten minutes before five.’
Back at the doctor’s surgery. ‘I have gotta get ready, do you have anything I could wear? Anything I could train in?’ Asked the man.
‘I have these old black shorts and this old Juventus shirt from a few years ago’ said the doctor, kneeling at the base of his wardrobe in search of anything sporty looking. ‘Found them! I used to play a long time ago. For the hospital team.’ The doctor said proudly. ‘Here, we are the same size, take them’ whilst handing over and old pair of Adidas Copa Mundial football boots.
16:49 it read on the man’s watch. Next minute Michael the short lad who he had seen earlier turned up in jovial mood. He was walking with two older men. Both were taller than Michael. ‘Heyyyyy! Here he is,’ said Michael. ‘This is who I was talking about, he was great earlier, and Ryan said he had been so helpful, tactically.’
‘Welcome’ said one of the taller men, his right hand drawn forward to shake. ‘I hear you might be able to help Steve turn these boys into Champions,’ he went on to jovially say.
‘Er, I’ll try my best to help however I can,’ said the man.
Later, back at the doctor’s surgery. ‘I need help in getting a passport!’ The man said to the doctor. ‘You know who you are? Has it all comeback?’ replied the doctor. ‘No, I haven’t got a clue. What I do know, is that this thing with Sirens will set me on my path’. ‘I’ve been waiting for this day to come, I still don’t think you’re ready to go alone, but you are a grown man. I will set you up a meeting with someone I know for tomorrow.’
At the back of a very run-down looking café sat a heavily bearded man sitting at a table on his own. The walls behind him and to his side were an off yellow with hundreds of photos of the café owner with celebrities. The most prized picture was the black and white photograph of the owner looking much younger standing in between Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The owner somehow dwarfing both muscular men by height and physique. Munching through an All-Day breakfast the bearded man had left some black pudding and the yolk of an egg. Another man was seated in the booth in front of him. The bearded man then got up walked past the booth in front of him and slipped an envelope onto the table. He then continued to the toilet facilities.
The man receiving the mysterious package opened it saw some passports then walked to the booth behind and placed a wedge of money on a small side plate, he then turned and walked out of the café.
‘How did it go?’ asked the doctor. ‘If I knew who I was I would be confused! He gave me four passports, each with a different name, each from different countries.’
The doctor then stood up and said ‘This is for your own protection. You need one for here, but you will want to go further in search of your identity, and I think you may need the others to get the answers you require.’