He’s running but he’s not. It’s more like gliding, but it’s not; with each stride he makes contact with the soft earth. His cleats sink into the supple soil- voila, instant traction. They envelop his feet like a second pair of skin. Every other step there’s a distinct thud as his feet direct the ball. The ball follows him, like a magnet, as if they are one and not separate entities. Watching him move the ball is like magic. He does things with an octagonal sided sphere that you wouldn’t think were possible. A flick of the foot and the ball isn’t where it was before. The crowd is roaring, but in his own little world you could hear a pin drop. His cleats shimmer under the stadium lights; they’re sparkling diamonds in a sea of green. He moves his way down the field. He’s not the home team but this is his home; the field, this is where he belongs. He knows every square inch of his field; he can distinguish subtle blemishes that go unnoticed to the naked eye. He moves down the field, making it to the midline unchallenged. Each step the opposing team becomes wary and anxious. The first comes when he’s at a full sprint. The poor bugger never knew what hit him. A twitch of his heel and the ball flies over their heads; it’s already too late for the defender. By now the ball and midfielder have blown by him and are halfway to the goal. He failed; failed miserably. For him there is no looking back, just the ball. Then he jerks his head up and launches the ball to the corner where his teammate will be in a matter of heartbeats. Having given up the rock, he is out of the limelight. Now that he is under the radar, he can make his move. Making a mad dash for the goal his legs are a blur, resembling thundering V8 pistons. He is wearing thin, his legs are pumping battery acid, his lungs are struggling to keep up; but he just keeps running. The cross is made. He sees his opportunity. This is his chance and he’s got one shot. He leaps into the air as the ball nears his feet. His life is in slow motion now. The crowd is jumping to their feet, the defenders realize their grave error, and the goalie looks on, hopeless. He commits himself to the attack, and slices the air with his foot. SCHWACK. You can hear the ball as it cracks like lightning with his tightly woven laces. Even before he lands back onto the field the ball is in the back of the net. It happened in the blink of an eye. Fan’s faces contort into a fit of anger, the goalie is bewildered, defenders with their pants around their ankles-humiliated, and the manager is left dumbfounded. He erupts into a primal roar as his team rushes towards him as they begin celebrating. Moments later the ref’s whistle shrieks, and its over.
December 11, 2009