The ball misses the goal by a mile. The Leopards laugh so hard they can barely stand. 

“I hope you don’t try score like that with girls,” Khaya shouts.

I feel so humiliated I can barely move. My little dog, Ronaldo, barks on the sidelines.

“Shut that mutt of yours up,” Khaya shouts.

I barely notice as the game restarts. The Dynamites best defender stops the Leopard’s play, but he hits the ground hard as Khaya takes him down with a crushing tackle.

“Get up,” says Khaya, “this isn’t Uruguay and you aren’t Suarez. You can’t just roll around on the ground and hope for a free kick.”

I can see our defender isn’t faking. His ankle is already swollen as my teammates help him off the pitch. One of the ladies who sells cooldrinks at the nearby taxi rank gives him some ice from her bucket to help bring down the swelling.

Rose’s younger brother is brought on as a substitute and the game continues. Eventually the final whistle blows with the result at 5-0.

I look over to where an old man is standing leaning against a lamppost watching. He’s dressed smartly with an old-fashioned hat perched on top of his grey hair. His face is craggy and lined, but his mouth is curled in a smile as he hums along to the music that is playing from the small radio that he carries in one hand.

I groan out loud. If there’s one person I wish hadn’t seen me miss, it’s the Professor. Rumour has it that he’d played for the Amakhosi when he was younger. He always watches when the kids play soccer, but he never says anything. Khaya says it’s because he missed a big penalty when he was younger and had gone crazy.

“I can’t believe we lost our first game” Chippa says, slumping to the ground.

“We’d better improve or we’re not going to make the final,” snaps Rose, kicking a cooldrink tin.

“Well, I’m the captain and I say we have to drop the players that can’t play,” Chippa announces. 

He turns to look at me. 

“Sorry, but you’re just not good enough. We have to drop you.”

Image: Caribbeanfreephoto, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

WHAT DO YOU THINK? For Nathi, being dropped from the team is the worst thing that could have happened to him. Do you have any advice for him?