Soured Soccer Afternoon
are possible in a soccer game: you either win…or you
are not prepared enough to win. There is no such thing as
a 'lucky win' in soccer. It's all hard work, dedication and
teamwork. Keeping all this in mind, I entered the field behind
my seasoned team mates, my heart going into overtime and the
adrenalin and pressure of the match slowly but surely sinking
that auspicious day, I entered the field amidst shouts of
more than two hundred fans. Such pressure will surely make
anyone's feet wobble but not me. My concentration was more
on my coughing that I had developed playing in the rain two
days back. My coughing motion could not be described as anything
other than the giration of a hip-hop street rapper, getting
'jiggy' with his favourite gig. I drew my breath in as it
was an important day. It was not just any game, I was playing
soccer representing my university... North South University.
had not passed in the Stamford Inter Private University Football
Tournament 2004, organised by Auritro, but the football fever
had already set in. The first game between North South University
and Daffodil University had ended with a score of 5-0 in favour
of NSU. Every win was a boost and with every boost, we were
nearing our goal. Our goal was to win and since I have come
back to where I had started, let me give a little prep-talk
about our next match.
come across many teams; some organised and skillful while
others who simply would not get their jerseys sweaty. But
no other team had we faced so far had the moral advantage
than that of our next challenger…a team that would surely
put out boots to the test. We were about to face IBAIS University
and their source of inspiration centred on their two forwards,
or should I say their national forwards Milon, Captain to
Shekh Russel Club and Rokib, Abahoni's Captain. This was surely
going to be 80 minutes of hell but we had a score to settle,
even if we had to beat it out of the 'devil'. Soon we were
in the field amongst bursts of cheers but I had little time
to hear anything as my eyes were glued to the IBAIS team.
Not only were they tall and sturdy, they had a rather mean
look on their face, almost as if they were going to chew on
us and spit us out.
blew and the game was on.
One minute into the game: Possession did not seem to be a
problem, for IBAIS University that is. They were playing to
their star strikers who in turn, were passing the ball back,
teasing and taunting us to attack. Being the centre-back,
it was my job to keep my attention on Milon and Rokib as they
posed the major threat. But I was becoming cross-eyed as both
the players were constantly on the go, especially Milon who
seemed to be trying to lose his shadow. IBAIS University was
trying their best to take our players out of their zones in
order to make a fast break. An early goal would surely put
the other team at a disadvantage and dampen their spirit.
minutes: They were quick with their attacks and managed to
break through our defense twice. Thanks mostly to Rokib and
his passes to Milon, these national players skilfully dribbled
and weaved past our defence line. Off-side trap applied and
failed, Milon broke from the crowd and charged towards the
goal, defender Farhan hot on his tracks. Rudro, NSU's keeper
seemed to sense the blemish in the defence line and came forward
to try and tackle Milon but he came one step too far. Milon
saw the gap between Rudro and the bar-post and lobbed the
ball over him. The ball moved, as if in slow motion, and …
dipped towards the goal. All eyes were glued to it. I was
the closest to it as I rushed to make a save but I, too, seemed
to move in slow motion. My spirit whizzed past but my body
was unresponsive, languid and leaden. Not a sound; dead air.
The ball cut through the wind and then we all heard it: the
disheartening smash as it landed on the net. Goal. 1-0 in
favour of IBAIS.
There was a series of strikes and counter-strikes, all-resulting
fruitlessly. Finally Kashef, NSU's star striker, got the ball
in his favourite position and he started his dribbling. Swerving
right he weaved past the first IBAIS defender and then another
and then he took his shot. Again that cessation of noise.
The whole field was quiet as fate took its toll. The goalie
decided to dive but was not fast enough and watched desperately
as the ball beat him. NSU had equalised the goal and the game
was back on track. The crowds cheered and the ecstatic players
huddled together to celebrate, all the aches and bruises forgotten.
Within minutes, the referee blew the whistle and it was time
for the half-time break.
by now had turned chronic and my throat was a festival of
fireworks. As we lay sprawled on the ground, we looked like
scattered bodies on a battlefield, some being treated, ankles
being sprayed and Band-Aids being passed with the casualness
of gum. The "healers" here were Salahin our manager
and Ashiq our assistant manager. By now I had surpassed the
contortions of the hip-hop and was doing the "Jitterbug"
except that my movements were not attracting others. In fact
most, carefully, took a stance further away. Only the coach
was brave enough to come close and offer advice on losing
my dance steps. Our coach Shahid Uddin Ahmed Selim, one of
the top officials to Brothers Union knew exactly what to do,
and soon I was as good as new.
We started off strongly, now that we knew that this team posed
no special threat other than the 'fear factor'. We were soon
on the attack again but their goalie made a remarkable save.
Unfortunately, his goal-kick was not too powerful and it ended
up with Reefat, NSU's mid-fielder who managed to score a remarkable
second for NSU. Within ten more minutes, Wazed scored a third
goal for NSU.
my cough interrupting my play, I thought it wise to be substituted.
Soon the game was back in full swing. Suddenly IBAIS scored
their second goal. Tears start to roll down my eyes as I realised
this might not have happened if I was still on the field (cough
Why was the referee not blowing the whistle? Extra time should
have been up by then. As the suspense grew, so did our open
mouths. In the dying minutes of the game, there was a huddle
in NSU's penalty box for the last shot of the game. IBAIS
took their best shot but Rudro was well up to the challenge.
They took a second shot but Anup, Farhan and Shommu, the backbone
of NSU's defense were all there, putting everything on the
line…minds, heart and body. Ultimately it was the body
that took the beating but in that panicked moment, tragedy
struck and IBAIS University scored their third. But wait,
the linesman had his flag up…it's an offside and the
goal was no more. It was like waking up from a nightmare only…only…the
referee was not looking at the offside call and was signaling
shouting in protest, pointing to the linesman but the linesman
seemed to have changed his decision. He now had his hands
down and was nodding his head in the 'no' gesture. Why did
he act so 'biased', I wondered? His change of heart cost us
the game as we ended up with a score of 3-3, seconds away
from victory. I consoled myself with the fact that we had
all given our 110% and after all it was all about playing
the game. But something in my heart told me something foul
had happened, something that I had never hoped to witness
in local soccer...'politics' had entered into its realm.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004