I look up at the large scoreboard that has been erected next to the street-soccer pitch outside Ma Lettie’s shebeen for the Streetskillz tournament. I’m still giving myself a hard time for missing that easy goal in the opening game and the scoreboard makes me feel even worse. It shows the four teams and their points, plus the top goal scorers for the tournament. Unsurprisingly Khaya ‘Young Star’ is at the top.

I sigh. I would love to be a real soccer player and have a nickname. Khaya is called “Young Star” because he started playing when he was really little and his natural talent shone through from the beginning. Chippa is called “Masterpiece” because he’s an artist with a soccer ball. But I don’t have one. Sometimes I wonder whether anybody even knows my real name.

I trudge home along the litter-strewn edges of Potsdam road with Ronaldo running happily along next to me. Trucks carrying equipment for farms trundle past and large military vehicles rumble through on their way to their base at Ysterplaat.

I reach the corner of Dumasani Road where Mr. Isaac sells appliances out of a large shipping container. Right now he’s sitting on an old lawn chair smoking his tobacco pipe.

“Hey Nathi,” he shouts, “Portugal is giving North Korea a hiding, come and watch.”

Mr. Isaac has balanced an old TV on a broken washing machine. He adjusts the TV aerial and the picture flickers to reveal Ronaldo passing the Korean defense and touching in an easy goal.

“Look, it’s you, Ronaldo. Although you’re much better looking than he is.”

Mr. Isaac pats Ronaldo, who rolls over and lies waiting to be tickled. 

“Just like his namesake,” Mr. Isaac says, “always looking for attention. Oh yes, how did your game go Nathi?” 

I sigh and shake my head.

“Ag, never mind, you must be like Bafana and keep on trying.”

I watch until the end of the game, with Portugal hammering home an amazing seven goals, and then make my way home.

“Did you see their pro boots?” I ask Ronaldo. The little dog barks and I laugh.

“It’s ok, I’ve got the new Barefoot Pro’s,” I say, picking up a stone with my toes and kicking it into the bushes, “so comfortable you feel like you’re hardly wearing anything.”

“Talking to yourself now?” a voice says from behind me.

I turn to see Rose cycling up behind me.

“No, I…” I start, but she cycles past before I can say anything to redeem myself.

Dropped from the team and caught talking to myself on the same day. Could it get any worse?

Image: Gothopotam, CC-BY-2.0