You Play As You Train

He reached into the tangle of bodies, over there, in the glare, off to the right, and at first nothing seemed to be happening, and so I waited. We all waited. Then white appeared. Gleaming white and clearly not football boots or socks or shorts. Clearly not part of the thicket of player limbs and parts. He always looked so good when he reached in and came out with the ball, and the way he positioned himself to produce a flying, tightly spiralling pass, the look on his face as he prepared to deliver the ball just the way we wanted it, well, it inspired confidence. He looked like he knew what he was doing. You had faith in him. He just looked so good.

And the ball floated, rotating on its long axis, seeming to hover out in front of the first player, to wait in front of him as he ran. He caught it with his hands and charged forward, running right at the defender opposite. It was just as it should be. It was fearless, as if all possible permutations and calculations were at that moment in his head, and he was in control. Calculations were rapidly recalculated and still he progressed. And most of the calculations weren’t necessary, as it went according to plan. He swung his arms across his body just as he reached his opposite number and he let the ball go precisely as the defender’s shoulder met the fold of his waist. He watched the rest of the movement from the ground where he and his tackler lay.

The next player caught the pass and let it go almost immediately. The next defender had rapidly advanced when he sensed the danger and was attempting to cut it off. But the pass was too quick for him.

And then I had the ball.

The winger didn’t seem interested as I put my foot down and increased velocity. Sound became blurred and vision was also blurred and the game was being played in my head for a moment. A swerve from the hip meant my run arced away from the winger and when I got close to the side line I was away, untouched, with a clear passage to the line. Now I could hear sound again. Yelling, indistinct and devoid of meaning. Just emotion. Panting now, getting louder, getting closer, the thump of hooves, as the last man made his way laboriously across to stop me. But he was too late and I was too quick, and the washed out colours of the bright afternoon became sharper when I put the ball down and was joined by my team mates.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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