A Goal By Chance?
By Arijit Talukdar
It was the last day of the interschool soccer tournament. The pits were still wet, the ground was muddy, the sun was shining bright, and we were ready to take on our opponents in the final. I could see sympathy on the faces of those who came to support the teams. A team that had lost in the qualifying stage of the tournament for the past seven years was playing in the finals against a squad that had an unbeaten home record and was a five-time winner. As a result, everyone expected our opponent to completely crush us.
The irony is that I was never interested in sports. Because I had nothing better to do, I used to hang out while the boys practiced, often filling in for an absent player. But, during a practice session, one of the players stumbled and fractured his arm. Because the team was short on replacements, they had no choice but to choose me.
That evening, after office hours, my father drove me to the sports shop. The shop had recently been renovated in preparation for the competition. The owner of the shop was a former football player who had given up his career to support his family. As I looked around the shop, I spotted a white football with stars printed near the corner, under the shelf where the trophies and sports equipment were displayed. I picked out the best ball and shoes available. But, my father thought the ball and shoes were too expensive for something that would only be used for three months. I knew where the insecurity came from. My father often bought me things that interested me, such as a guitar or an expensive laptop. But my enthusiasm for these things quickly faded, and the items gathered dust. So my father assumed the same thing would happen this time with football and shoes. So I had to pick out a decent football and a pair of shoes.
The next day, I began training with the boys in the hopes of qualifying this time. We began practicing after school until the sun went down and all the kids and teachers went home. We started arriving at the playground even before the guards were awake. Our parents and teachers were astounded by our dedication. The prime motive, though, was to escape the boring lesson and the monthly inspection. While we avoided the classrooms, we engaged ourselves in preparation for the tournament, and the leisure turned into a big deal as we qualified and made it into the final.
The crowd roared, the mood became heated, and the spectators began to compete to see who could scream the loudest. We were down by one goal. Ezekiel, our right winger, made his way to the penalty box by dribbling through opponents. He couldn't create an opening to shoot, resulting in him being tackled by a defender and the ball flew off the field. The referee gave the corner signal. Everyone froze at that point. The roaring died away and one could even hear their throbbing hearts. It was a scary moment for our opponent, but it was also a gleam of hope for us. We had the opportunity to tie the game and take it to extras. We were aware that their striker was exhausted and would be replaced.
We set up in the penalty zone after Ezekiel took his position near the corner. Our job was to create an opportunity and intervene with the players who were circling Arjun, our team's leader. Ezekiel struggled to find an opening until he waved his hand in the air. We all got the signal and knew what we had to do. Ezekiel kicked the ball, Arjun stepped back, and we all pressed for an attack. Everyone was focused on the ball. The ball crossed the penalty area. Arjun dashed and leapt, then flipped into the air and kicked the ball. The ball flew to the goalpost. Everyone held their breath. The ball struck the pole and bounced back. Our fans turned away, believing we had lost the game, and then I noticed the ball flying towards me, and I saw an opportunity. I collected all my might in my thighs, pushed through two players, and jumped into the air. I gave the ball a slight shove as it landed on my head. The ball curved past the goalkeeper and dropped into the net as the referee blew the final whistle. We were able to drag the game into extras. The audience went wild, and we celebrated as if we had won the game. The game became exciting. Regardless of the outcome, we have shown the crowd that we are capable of making a strong comeback.
At last, it was not the greatest resources that lead to success, but rather hard work and dedication to achieve the goal.
By Arijit Talukdar