Yesterday afternoon, the progress of my under-15 football team was halted in the semi-final. It was disappointing to lose, especially in the semi, and more than that, the way the boys played in the second half of yesterday’s tie, they didn’t deserve to bow out.
It was about three weeks ago when I started my selection, training, and grooming of the players. There were about 50 odd students who wanted to represent the school but I could only choose 18. And after a week, I found the best eighteen, though some of them were there to make the numbers only, and taught them the finer points of football. Last Monday, the team played in the district tournament and drew in their first game 1-1 against ACS. They controlled 65% of possession, missed a number of sitters and chances, and even scored an own goal to give the opponent a breather. But in the second game they showed their true potential and won 6-1 against Methodist.
In the quarter, the team was erratic. In the first half and first 10 minutes of the second half against Ambrose, they controlled the game and led me to believe I was Pep Guardiola. But after taking a lead of 3-0, they took things too easily and were lucky the opponent only managed to score twice. I was really furious with their discipline, or lack of it actually, and they got a ‘good’ piece of my mind.
And yesterday before the game, I told them we had achieved our target of reaching the semi, and a final place would be a great bonus. In the first half, against Raja Shariman, the game was even, but the players were found wanting on a number of occasions, and because of that, they made two schoolboys mistakes, (what do you expect from them, being schoolboys, right!!) and presented the opponent with two soft goals. Aaah! I was really pissed and during the break, I screamed my head out, and told the boys that if they couldn’t produce in the second half, then it’s over. I was ranting, actually, and I guess I had every right to do so.
And presto! The boys; shafiq, hanif, mirul, kimi, hafiz, suhail, hazwan, izuwan d captain, shakir, who came in for ilham, and zuhaili as well as the keeper, nuzul; were like men possessed. They hassled the opponent, attacked from the start and even missed a sitter in the first minute of the half, and a few other opportunities also went begging. Finally, 15 minutes before time, they got their goal, which encouraged them to go on, and 5 minutes before time, got a penalty but the keeper denied the equalizer, which if had it gone in, would definitely demoralize the opponent spirit.
And then the whistle was blown. The players were terribly gutted, but I told the boys to hold their heads up, coz they had played their hearts out and there’s nothing to be ashamed. It was a moment of mixed-emotions, but the gloom was obvious. The team left for home and I rode my rastaman into the horizon wondering about the what if.
There’s always a next time. There always is, for the faithful.