Should I put it to his right or his left or just hammer it down the middle, hoping that he will dive one way or the other? I stared directly into their keepers eyes looking for some clue as to what was going on in his brain, he held my gaze, glowering back at me, searching for some indication from my body language as to where I was going to try to posit the ball. “Why does it have to come to this?” I said to myself. “Why couldn’t we have settled the match in normal time? Couldn’t the designated penalty takers sort it out between themselves and leave the rest of us cowards to celebrate the victory, or suffer the pains of losing? Why in the world do we have to put ourselves through this torment?” Ninety minutes of pulsating action, drama and emotion had left me drained of physical and mental energy. In a match resembling the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ leaving both teams down to ten men, with several other players sitting on yellow cards, the result still hadn’t been settled. This had left the protagonists to endure a further thirty minutes of extra time. If neither team could break down the other’s defence during the initial ninety minutes, then it was not surprising that the extra time period also finished in a stalemate. Therefore, after the referee had blown to conclude the two hours of conflict, and although the overall result of the game was still in the balance, a sense of relief came over me. I had played my part in getting us so far, now it was up to the delegated penalty takers to finish off the job. How I envied the calm assurance in which our strikers embraced the responsibility to slot the ball past the hapless keeper from the penalty spot. They relished the task of embellishing their personal goal scoring account and with no opposition defenders to intervene; they regarded it as a gift! The two of them almost squabbled as to who should go first, whilst the majority of us held back, trying to avoid the manager's eyes, as he looked for willing candidates to make up the compulsory first five penalty takers. Injuries and substitutions had played havoc with our pre-match planning and although I wouldn’t figure in the initial shootout, there was always the faint possibility that I could be called upon if the scores were still deadlocked.
May 22, 2017