To be at the Holland-Uruguay clash at Cape Town Stadium all I have to do is make sure that the Dynamites lose the upcoming Streetskillz final against the Leopards. It would be simple. I could just mess up a few passes and take a few wild shots at goal. The Leopards are a great team and would definitely capitalize on mistakes like that.
I find myself thinking about my father, whose teammates had called him Silver – he’d taken money to lose a game for his team. If that had been good enough for my father, surely it could be good enough for me?
I smile at Khaya’s father, my mind made up.
“You’re right,” I say, “I do have to think about myself and how I’ll feel once the game’s over. Cheating would be like giving up on everything.”
I hand the ticket back.
“I’ll see Khaya on the pitch,” I say as I turn and walk away from the shiny silver Mercedes.
That evening I watch Holland beat Uruguay on Mr. Isaac’s small TV. For a second I imagine what it would have been like to actually be at the match, but I know in my heart that I’ve made the right choice.
“So your street soccer final is on Sunday?” Mr. Isaac says, smoke drifting up from his pipe.
I nod. In fact there are TWO finals on Sunday.
“Are you coming to watch?” I ask him. “The World Cup final and the Streetskillz final are on at the same time – it’s like a two-for-one special!”
Mr. Isaac shakes his head, “No man, those vuvuzelas drive me mal. I’ll watch the World Cup on my TV and you can come tell what happened with your match.”
That afternoon Chippa rounds up the Dynamites on the field to talk about the upcoming final.
“We know how the Leopards play,” Chippa says meaningfully, “and it’s not going to be easy…but we can’t let them intimidate us.”
Just then Khaya strolls up to the field with a ball in his hand.
“Sho, look at the losers practicing,” Khaya shouts. “It’s not going to help, but if it makes you feel better…”
I feel anger rise in me again – I’ve been pushed around by Khaya for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had enough.
“Your father was so worried The Dynamites might beat you that he tried to bribe me to throw the game,” I say loudly and coldly, “Isn’t the real loser the one whose daddy tries to make his little boy win?”
Khaya stalks over and stands menacingly in front of me. I brace myself – I know I’m about to be beaten up. But to my amazement the Dynamites close in on Khaya.
“You better leave,” Chippa says to him.
“Ja, you soek trouble with him, you soek trouble with us,” Rose says in a voice that sounds just like Ma Lettie.
Khaya looks around at the Dynamites angry faces. Khaya is big, but Chippa is almost as big, and the lone Leopard is outnumbered. The team stand by me as Khaya backs away slowly, his face set in a snarl.
Khaya draws a finger across his throat and points at me.
“I’ll sort you out on the pitch,” he sneers, then turns and walks away from the field.
Image: Destinys Agent, CC-BY-NC-2.0
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Khaya looks like he’s going to play dirty. What tactics should Nathi use to make sure that Khaya’s physical play doesn’t get the better of him?