The girl standing opposite me scowls. The game is about to start and she looks like she has me in her sights.
Khaya takes the kickoff and dribbles it forward. The Iron Maidens are waiting for him.
“Pass it,” I shout as I dodge past the blonde, “I’m open!”
Khaya ignores me and takes the ball forward. He grins at one of the girls and tries a fancy move, obviously trying to impress her. She’s not impressed. With an elbow she pushes Khaya off the ball and with lightning-quick footwork dribbles the ball forward. She swiftly executes a long pass to one of her teammates who has anticipated the move.
I run forward to tackle her but she’s too quick and spins around, wrong footing me and playing the ball to her striker, who stops it before powering it home into the Streetskillz goal. The girls let out a whoop of victory, gathering round and climbing on the scorer like seasoned pros.
I look around at all the boys on the Streetskillz team: they looked stunned. So am I!
I look up into the stands to see where the Professor and my mom are sitting. Strange – the two men I noticed in the stands earlier are still watching me. It’s quite odd that they’re not looking at anybody else. The whistle blows and I turn my attention back to the game.
“Nice tackle,” Khaya mutters sarcastically to me as we walk back for the restart.
What an idiot. I don’t mention that if Khaya hadn’t been trying to show off we wouldn’t have lost the ball in the first place.
From that point on it just gets worse. Khaya hogs the ball and refuses to pass to me, or to anybody that is open. The Iron Maidens are skillful players and masterfully bounce the ball off the sideboards during play – a classic street soccer trick that I’m totally not used to.
Quickly the Maidens rack up the goals, and when the whistle blows for them to finish, the tough all-girl team has beaten us 4-0.
We troop silently back into the facility. Khaya swears under his breath and pushes me with his elbow as he walks past. I glare back at him.
We all have a quick shower, change back into our smart clothes and then join the parents in a conference room.
“As you can see,” Mr. Naidoo says to the adults, “the boys need a lot of practice in the art of street soccer. That’s why I want them to come and live here at the facility for a month – so that we can train extensively. We’ll bus the boys into their schools daily, and will make sure that they have tutors here to help them with their homework. The rest of the time we’ll be training hard, sharpening their skills and raising their game.”
What?! I didn’t realize that playing in the team would mean I’d have to leave Du Noon for a month! What about Rose? What about the Professor and Ronaldo? I can’t bear to not hang out with them for a whole month!
WHAT DO YOU THINK: What’s more important for Nathi: staying with his girlfriend and family or going away to take this opportunity?