BUSH ELEVEN

We were studying for Pre-Degree. Globally, it was Gulf war 1.0 and George Bush Senior was the President of the United States. Our college decided that there would be an annual football competition for the Berchman’s Cup, and to make the turf even for the not-so-footballers it would be like that everyone will be playing barefoot. Soccer competition, playing barefoot. Why don’t we give it a try? I suggested the idea to one of my friends who was in another class.

“No way, we can’t do it.”

“Why?”

“We don’t have enough people to make a team. We need eleven men.”

But the idea started brimming in my mind after some hours. I decided to contact another friend, who was more egghead than everyone else, and had a real football with him; but it was rather a showpiece. He never played with it, because he never had anyone to play with it.

He said yes. He was willing to lend the football for the whole length of the process, but only on one condition. He also should be allowed as a player.

Not a problem. We currently have two players. I took him to the first friend who was reluctant at first. Since my egghead-friend had the reputation of a good boy, the first friend agreed also. Now we need to recruit the team. Since we were in three different classes I suggested that everyone tell other people about joining us for a team.

Most people were reluctant at first, but a few were interested. And after a couple of days we persuaded enough students to join our new football team. And we even got one player who was, someone claimed, a protégé of the coach of Kerala Police, the then national football champions.

So finally the day of our first match had arrived. Just the day before, on behalf of the whole team, I had enrolled our team in the competition. A name had to be chosen for the team. I checked with the other names. Degree Course students had formed a team called DC Milan, which rhymed with the iconic Italian club AC Milan. Since it was the days of the Gulf War, there was another team called Saddam Eleven. So we decided to name our team Bush Eleven.

In the evening, we had our first round match scheduled against a team of the students of the Sports Hostel. They were athletes, and got admitted to the college on the merit of their athleticism alone. We were day-scholars and were playing as a team for the first time.

One person was designated the goal keeper. I was the sweeper back. There were three defenders in front of me, and the protégé of the coach of Kerala Police was one of the forwards. Our game plan was like this. The sweeper-back will be counterattacking, and one of the defenders will have to fall back when I am advancing.

The whistle was blown and the match started. I was waiting in the back when the opposition team got possession of the ball for the first time and started advancing to our half. I waited patiently and I tackled one of their forwards and got possession of the ball. Spiritedly, I started sprinting toward the other half while tapping the ball forward trying not to lose possession. Someone else in the defense then stayed back, sweeping for the team until I came back from the other half.

The strategy was effective, but the implementation was poor. As frenzied I was with the run, I soon lost possession of the ball once I entered the other half. I started to get winded running too fast and too soon, and everyone else also started to tire. My feet started to hurt hitting the stones on the playing field. And the sports-hostelers started to score goals. I remember that we were fighting so good that it was just 0-1 for quite sometime. Then they started to score goals and we started to go downhill.

We were well into the second half and were trailing a huge 0-7 when there was this ball high in the air, we jumped high, and I got headed on the temple from an opposition player. I still feel the blunt force hitting onto my head when my jaws crunched abruptly and I fell to the ground with a concussion injury to the head. Even a week later I had difficulty masticating food.

I was carried on to the side of the field, and then came the substitution. What a better substitution than the man who lend us the football? Our egghead came in as substitute.

But he had a problem.

Just before the match we had to take the football from his house. One of my friends took out a bicycle and carried him to his house to bring the football. But on the way back, they collided with a fish-seller who was riding another bicycle coming the opposite way.

After they bumped into each other, three people and two bicycles were lying on the ground. And a few moments later everyone collected themselves and slowly stood up.

In an apparent bid to conceal his chagrin our egghead friend goes,

“Why don’t you just ride the bicycle a little bit more carefully?”

“I do not need none of your f*ing advice.”

Right came the fish-seller’s reply threatening to abuse them.

Our egghead friend never really recovered from it.

Our egghead is now the new defender. Since he was so shy, awkward, and inexperienced, he just waited almost in front of the goalie for the ball. And the sports-hostelers started camping right in front of our goal post.

“Hey, go up a little bit forward, so that the linesmen can raise their flags up for offside.”

Our supporters in the crowd went shouting.

He pretended that he can’t hear them.

Then came another goal.

The next time the sports-hosteler’s came charging, he simply ran off to the front not even trying to stop them.

And they scored again.

“We asked you to move forward not when they are trying to score a goal.”

Someone from the crowd did try to tell him amidst both cheering and booing.

The final score line was 11-0 against us.

After a few days and my injury healing, I again started attending the classes. I was walking past one of my friend’s class then one of my peers called me.

“Hey, Bush. How do you do?”

“Wh– What did you call me?”

“You organized Bush eleven. All right? So you’re Bush.”

“It was a long time ago.”

I felt like saying but I didn’t tell him.

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