I can feel a terrible stitch cutting into my left side. The fitness training the Professor is asking me to do feels like some kind of horrible torture. Quitting now might be much easier. But I know I’ll regret it if I do.

“Ok, Prof, I’ll do any exercises you want me to do.”

“Good,” says the Professor smiling, “now run around the field another ten times.”

I grit my teeth and lumber around the field again.

For the rest of the week, between watching the World Cup and cheering as the Dynamites beat the Colts in the Streetskillz tournament, I follow the Professors training regime.  

There are no Streetskillz games to watch on Friday, so I use the time before my shift at the shebeen to go for a run through Du Noon and up Potsdam road. On my way back home I spy Rose walking purposefully through Du Noon carrying a pile of books. 

I jog up behind her and hear her muttering, “If x is 50 and y is 90 degrees…” 

“Talking to yourself?” I laugh.

She jumps and spins around, then grins when she sees it’s me. 

“I guess you’re not the only one,” she smiles.

“Want to practice some passing and shooting?” 

Rose shakes her head.

“I’ve got to do my geometry project.” 

“Aww, c’mon, homework during the holidays?” 

“Well, I need to do well this year if I’m going to get a scholarship to university,” Rose says matter-of-factly.

“I don’t get that geometry stuff,” I confess, “besides, when am I ever going to need to use angles, I’m not going to be a scientist or anything.”

“So what are you going to do then?” Rose asks, reaching down to pat Ronaldo. 

The little dog rolls onto his back and closes his eyes with delight.

“A pro soccer player. First I’ll get back into the Dynamites, then Bafana Bafana!”

Rose laughs, “OK, superstar, well maybe angles can help you.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Uh, I don’t think so.”

Rose sighs and shakes her head, “OK well tell me this – how does the offside rule work?”

“Oh that’s easy.”

Rose flips open the notebook she’s holding. 

“So, this is your opponent’s defender,” she says drawing a circle. “And this is one of your midfielders.” 

She draws another circle on the other side of the pad.

“Now where does your striker have to be in order to be onside when your midfielder passes to him?”

“He has to be behind or in line with the defender.” 

“Right,” says Rose, “so let’s put him here.” 

She draws another circle below the defenders and then joins the circles up to make a triangle.

“This angle is ninety degrees, what’s this one?” 

I think hard, imagining the positions of the players clearly in my mind. 

“Um, I dunno, 30 degrees?”

“Right!” Rose says.

“Sho, you’re like a soccer Einstein,” I grin.

“You better believe it,” Rose says.

We go through different soccer tactics and scenarios using angles before we realize its time to get to the shebeen.

As we walk down Dumasani Road we see Khaya standing in the street. We have to get to work and there’s no other route to take. There’s no option – we have to walk past him.

Image: Dullhunk, CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0