My team squares off against our opposition for the start of the second half of the game. We’re playing on a stretch of dusty road and I can smell the salty tang of the sea and the bitter scent of the oil refinery on Koeberg Road. It’s the smell of my hometown, Du Noon township in Cape Town.
I wipe the sweat from my brow and push my short dreadlocks out of my face. My eyes, are totally focused on the action that’s about to begin. The holidays are here – there’s no more school for the whole of the World Cup – but relaxation is the last thing on my mind right now. With the holidays have come Streetskillz, the greatest thing to happen to Du Noon since Ma Lettie hooked up satellite TV in her shebeen.
Streetskillz is a street soccer tournament like no other. A local businessman has sponsored the event, creating a street pitch outside the local shebeen. At each end, the goal posts are wrapped in the flags of the countries participating in the World Cup, and the neighbourhood kids have taken to writing messages on them in marker pen.
There is even talk of soccer talent scouts being here for the final game! The rules are simple: four neighbourhood teams play games against each other throughout the duration of the World Cup, with the top two competing for the title of Streetskillz Champions.
Right now the only skill my team – The Dynamites – is showing, is in being beaten. The score is 2-0 to our opponents, The Leopards.
Khaya, the tall and muscular Leopard’s captain is a lethal striker. He has his hair pulled back into cornrows and shiny earrings gleam in both ears. He grins at me menacingly. Khaya knows his team is going to win.
The whistle blows and Khaya comes racing down the pitch. I’m standing ready to tackle, but Khaya is too quick and sidesteps me easily. He blasts his shot in. 3-0 to The Leopards.
“Hey Benni McCarthy,” Khaya shouts at me, “you must stop eating all that chicken your mother sells or you’re going to be dropped from your team too, Big Mac.”
I feel my face flush with anger. I was a bit chubby as a younger boy and even though my body has since slimmed down as I’ve grown taller Khaya never lets me forget it.
Rose, a team mate I secretly have a huge crush on, takes the kick off and dazzles The Leopards midfielders taking a long shot on goal, but the goalie punches it over the bar for a corner kick.
Khaya grins at Rose. She’s a tomboy, but is very pretty with curly brown hair, light brown eyes and an explosion of freckles across the bridge of her nose.
“Are you called Rose because you smell so nice?” he says standing close behind her.
“How nice of you to think so,” Rose says smiling, “but no, it’s not because of that.”
“Then why is it?” Khaya asks as the corner kick sails over the box.
“It’s because I have thorns,” Rose says, elbowing him hard in the stomach as she jumps to head the ball to me.
I stop the ball with my chest. Finally here is my chance. The ball drops to the ground and I kick.
Image: Abdurahman Warsame, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Nathi dreams of playing soccer for Bafana Bafana. What are your big dreams for the future?