Chapter Four: Dubai
“JEET, PASS!” Shaun screeched.
“Oh, but Jeet refuses to pass the ball, he’s dribbling!” Mahan commentated.
Jeet fell over a bad tackle from the opponent.
“Oh, that is a horrible tackle, I must say, and the referee is taking issue! Oh, that is a bad one for the reputation of Team B; the ref shows a straight yellow card. Jeet is the man to take the free kick!”
“No! Why is Jeet only taking all the kicks! The last time he kicked it hit the post!”
“Oh shut your mouth, will you? The last time you kicked the ball, it ended up in Pakistan! Leave it to Jeet”
“It is SO rich coming from you, at least I shot it, and you slipped on the ball when you tried!”
Jeet broke the ice between the two.
“Shhh” he said.
Jeet took ten steps behind the ball, after placing the ball on a bobble on the ground. He had the mouth of the ball facing him, for power. He pictured the outcome of every technique he could try. He wanted elevation off the ball and a slight curve into the net.
He inched towards the ball and then started to increase his pace. On his last leap, he took his weak foot and placed it in the direction of the goal, and bent himself backwards for elevation. It swept off the ground and high into the air. The goal keeper was just on the verge of laughter, he knew it was going wide. He knew wrong. What happened was something even Jeet didn’t expect. It curled straight into the top corner and went in through a deflection.
“It is a GOAL! Jeet scores directly from the kick spot. The score line is 2-1!”
“No! I told you it is unfair! Put him in goal! He should be a goalie!”
“Shut your mouth, unless you want a red card.”
“It is okay” Jeet said. “If it is unfair then I’ll go in goal.”
“Alright, then. Off you go, Jeet.”
“Jeet chooses to go in goal! He is the goalkeeper now. He has swapped positions with Jack!”
Jeet asked for goalie gloves, but everyone refused. “Make do without it, fatso” they would say.
A lively kid, about one year younger to Jeet, jogged up to him and handed him mittens.
“Here! These work just fine”
“Hey, thanks Sridhar!”
He wasn’t trying to be rude, that boy. He wanted to help.
“I never asked my parents for fancy items, because these are as cool! Don’t believe me? You can try saving a shot without them and then with them! You’ll see!”
“Nah, I believe you. Thanks!”
Jeet loved Sridhar’s ways of embracing life and living it with a smile. If someone would try to insult him, he’d just laugh it off. Jeet found it inspirational. The two were the best of friends.
The mittens worked greatly and he pulled off at least seven saves with it. The game drew to a close and the match result was 2-1. Mahan walked up to Jeet and asked him if he likes playing football with his friends in the park.
“Maybe they always put me in goal, but it is still fun. I love playing at the park.”
“But I won’t be doing commentary on the next matches; neither will my mates be refereeing on the game. We’re sick and tired, and we got games of our own to play. Sorry. Please tell this to your team mates as soon as possible.”
From then on, games became dreadful and haphazard. Rules started breaking, and nobody followed orders and tactics. They tried making themselves referees, but obviously nobody would listen to them. People stopped coming and therefore because of lack of players and lack of rules and discipline, score lines exceeded bars of 20+. Games became 20-25 or 30-3, teams were unfair, and nobody played a full ninety minute game, so if you leave in the middle, it is counted as a forfeit. That was an idea of football with no rules.
There were ten games remaining till Jeet lifted his “imaginary” trophy. The friends at the park created the “Dubai Park League”, but it lost its aura when people left and others started playing three – on threes (3 players vs. 3 players). Anyway, Jeet’s team had won the league and the idea was that the losers had to buy the winners a bag of chips or ice cream, but the losers did not.
“SHUT UP, Jeet” They had said, “You’d get fatter if we gave you chips, plus why should we spend our valuable pocket money on fat slobs like you and – and Sridhar!”
“Firstly, you shut it about Sridhar, he weighs lesser than your diabetic dog and secondly, I haven’t eaten a bag of chips in two years!” Jeet hit back.
“HEY! Don’t you insult my little dog you slimy, fat, bulgy piece of -!”
That is how it went most of the days, and Jeet never had fun anymore, instead, he’d come home exhausted and angry. And, well, we already know what happens when he gets angry. Sridhar pulled him away from the battle, insisting that he had enough pocket money to buy ice cream from the local stand. They bought two vanilla ice creams with a chocolate outer covering and a delectable waffle cone.
“Jeet, I have good and bad news. Do inform me which choice you would prefer; which choice would you want to hear first.
“I would fancy positivity before negativity, dear Sridhar.”
“That is a wise choice. Here is the good news: I am going to get admitted to the same school as yours, Jeet!”
“That is just wonderful!”
“But I am shifting to a new house so I’ll never step foot into this park ever again, at least to come and play football.”
Jeet understood that the school was close to Sridhar’s house, so he’d just walk home.
“Football selections for the school team are on Monday. Don’t miss it, I trust that you would be joining school by then. It’ll be fun!” Jeet ordered as he hopped off his seat and wiped his face with napkins.
Sridhar hopped off his seat and, in the process, dropped his ice cream on the floor.
“Aw, really? That was my favorite part of the ice cream!” A disgruntled Sridhar spoke.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pick it up” The ice cream man assured him.
Sridhar smiled and gave thumbs up to the ice-cream man.
“Wait up, Jeet!” he called as he trotted towards his friend.
Story: A Footballer’s World, Chapter 1