The days leading up to the big games go quickly, and soon it’s time to play! On the day of the finals, everybody in Du Noon, whether South African, Zimbabwean, Congolese or Somalian dress up in their supporting gear. It’s orange for the Netherlands, red for Spain – and a spotted leopard-print headband for the Leopards, or a green headband for the Dynamites.
“Sorry Ronaldo, you can’t come,” I say to my little dog as I open the door to leave the house. “There are going to be too many people at the final. I don’t want to lose you in the crowd.”
The little dog whines, struggling against his leash.
“I’ll let you know who wins,” I say as I hand him a bone.
Ronaldo whines as he takes the bone and sits chewing forlornly as I leave.
As I pass I wave to Mr. Isaac whose sitting serenely on his lawn chair smoking a pipe, the Spanish flag wrapped around his shoulders and a green Dynamites band around his head.
The street-soccer pitch is already throbbing with excitement and sounds of vuvuzelas. The rich smell of food wafts from the shebeen. I weave my way through the throng of people and to the pitch where the Dynamites are sitting. I take the place next to Rose, who quickly slips her hand into mine.
“Think you can ask the Professor to give us a pep talk?” Rose asks, “Everyone is really nervous.”
I search the crowd for the old, craggy face of my mentor. Eventually I spot him, wearing a green band around his hat. I jog over to ask him this favour.
The Professor shuffles over to address the team.
“The only advice I have for you is to focus on the game. Mediocre teams are the ones that have to use amateur dramatics like diving to make their way through. Focus on the soccer, not on what your opponents are doing,” the old man advises.
The Dynamites nod in unison. The fact that the Professor has spoken to us at all has made us feel better! As Streetskillz games are shorter than normal soccer matches, the street soccer final kicks off at the beginning of the second half of the World Cup final. The Spain-Holland game has been goalless in the first half, and the crowd is eager to see some goals in the street tournament.
All of us players make our way to the centre of the pitch. I look at Khaya swaggering and know this isn’t going to be easy.
The Dynamites keep good possession, like the Spanish, but The Leopards have clearly embraced the hard physical play of the Dutch. Within minutes, Khaya slams into me and pushes me to the ground. I feel my ankle twist and red-hot pain explodes in my leg.
Image: Foxy Coxy, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0