Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Tackle

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Azman waved his arms in enthusiasm, signalling for the ball to be passed to him since he had ample of free space to have a decent go at goal.

At that time, I was in possesion of the ball so I sent a through-ball to him that split the opposition’s defence and paved the way for him to score a goal from a well-taken shot five yards away from the goalmouth.

We celebrated the goal with utter jubilation. The scoreboard read: Malaysia 1-0 Brazil. How’s that for a start?

Thereafter, there was a frenzy of action at either side of the field. The Brazilian team squandered numerous gilt-edged chances, while we Malaysians were riding our luck.

During the first half-hour or so, our most outstanding player was surely our goalkeeper, Alfred Tan. The lanky six-footed bloke was the saviour of the national team as he saved quite a few magnificent shots taken by the Brazilian strikers from point-blank ranges.

As the match headed towards half-time, I began to feel tired. Fatigue crept in and I wasn’t able to perform at my best. This was not the case for me only as it was the same for most of the other players too. Therefore, it was no surprise that I drew a sigh of relief upon hearing the half-time whistle being blown by the referee.

Both teams drew first-blood as soon as the second-half got underway. I for one missed an open goal, and with that a chance to put the Malaysian team two-up against one of the most glamorous footballing nations in the world.

I took that miss very hard on myself. I struggled to keep my emotions in check, and my focus on the match was wavering after that. Worse still, Malaysia were by now on the back foot as Brazil kept on plundering on our goalmouth time and again in search for the inevitable equaliser.

In addition to that, the tension was unbearable at the stadium. The fans of both teams were jeering the opposition players whenever they got hold of the ball. And amid this tense period of time –some sixty-five minutes into the game – I lost my head and made the most reckless of tackles.

A Brazilian player was controlling the possession of the ball when all of a sudden, due to the frustration that was creeping into me, I tackled him. It was a heavy lunge that floored the player, and he was agonising in deep pain.

Inside my heart, I cried “Noooo!” But it was too late. I hoped the clock could be turned a minute. I hoped that this was all an illusion. However, the reality was that this was no illusion. I walked off towards the stands solemnly, my head looking down to the ground, as I was anticipating a direct red-card to be shown by the referee.

Incredibly though, to my, as well as to almost everyone’s disbelief, the referee blew his whistle, signalling me to make my way back to the field. And as I walked back, he flashed a yellow card at me. Only a yellow card, can you believe that!

I accepted that as a chance to redeem myself, as well as some lost pride. But the player whom I had tackled earlier was evidently imbued in pain, and this had an adverse impact on me. I just couldn’t get that scene out of my head. Luckily though, the player got back onto the field after some extensive treatment on the sidelines.

As the clock ticked away, and as Malaysia headed for a historic win against the six-time world champions, disaster round two struck for me.

Instead of clearing away a dangerous in-swinging cross for a corner, I rammed the ball into the roof of my own net. I sensed my world falling apart. I collapsed to the ground, with my head in my hands.

Now, due to my misgivings, the match was dragged into extra-time. But since I felt that I was not in the right frame of mind to continue playing, I made a plea to the gaffer to substitute me. His reply though was a harsh one. “No way! Get your arse up on the pitch now and do your country proud, you idiot!”

Unable to muster the strength to go against the gaffer, I headed back onto the pitch for extra-time. As I made my way there, I caught a stare from the player whom I had tackled earlier. He had a sinister smile on his face. This sent a cold chill down my spine. I sensed vengeance; a personal vendetta against me.

I brushed my fear aside and recollected myself. I looked up on the heavens on the starry night, but I had a strange feeling that luck was not to be with me that night. Before I knew it, the referee blew the whistle for the start of the first-half of extra-time.

The first few minutes were tentative, with no team willing to expose themselves to a counter-attack from the opposition. Just then, out of the blue, I got the inspiration to do something great.

I collected a pass from my teammate at around the middle of the park and dribbled past an onrushing Brazilian defender, turned round another and was about to take on a third when my feet crumbled to the ground.

I crashed down just like how the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11 2001. I held my feet, my pain terribly unbearable. I saw the face of the player who tackled me – it was the same guy whom I had tackled earlier.

My vision was blurring. And when I did get up again, I realised that I was at the hospital. “Mr. Singh, you have a broken right leg. Well, I am afraid to say this, but there will be no more football for you,” said the doctor.

*This is a fictional essay.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
◄Design by Pocket, BlogBulk Blogger Templates