“Brilliant! All your answers to my questions were on track, which means that you have actually been reading our English set work between soccer practices. Nice one lover boy! I like a talented all rounder,” teases Rose as she packs her homework back into her satchel.

I like these question and answer trials Rose puts me through whenever we do our homework together. To be honest I sometimes catch myself feeling as absorbed in the mental challenge as I would in a challenge on the soccer field. And my grades have actually improved too, which is an extra bonus. As my thoughts drift back to soccer I feel my worry return, and my forehead crease into a frown.  

“What’s wrong?” Rose asks. “You seem really stressed out lately, is it that new coach again?”

I sigh. “He’s OK. Sometimes I just don’t know what do to do though.”

Rose smiles again and puts her forehead against mine. 

“You need to decide what you want in life. It’s all about prioritizing.”

I smile back. “At least I know where you are on the list.”

Rose grins. “Well I’m glad you’re clear on that Einstein. Now don’t you have a practice with the Prof to get to?”

I grab her wrist and look at her watch. 

“Oh man, I told Prof I’d be there at four!” 

I jump up, grab my bag and then lean down and kiss Rose. 

“See you tomorrow,” Rose says, “dream about me.”

I flash her a smile as I turn and sprint towards the field. As I race through Du Noon I dodge around children playing in the road and men moving heaps of scrap metal on shopping trolleys.

“Sorry Prof!” I shout as I reach the field, throw down my bag and run over to where to my mentor is pacing contemplatively with his hands behind his back. 

“No problem, Nathi. I know you have better things to do than spend time with an old man like me.” 

The Professor’s eyes twinkle and I grin and look down in embarrassment.  

“Still you lovebirds can’t spend ALL your time together, so let’s get to work,” the Professor continues, clapping his hands together. “Today I’d like to address some of the weaknesses in your game.”

This is a surprise to me. 

“What do you mean?” I ask.

The old man rubs his chin. 

“Well, your power for instance,” he says, “you’re still not quick enough off the mark.”

“Reinecker doesn’t seem to think I have a problem,” I retort. 

“I’m not talking about brute force,” the Professor says. “When you’ve built up your power you won’t need to rely on sheer strength.”

Our practice begins with the Professor calling out instructions and me following them. I run up and down the field, lifting my knees as high as I can.

I’m trying so hard to focus on the high-steps, but strangely all I can think about are Reinecker’s words. ‘Develop the killer instinct. Develop the killer instinct.’ They run through my head again and again. These basic exercises that the Professor is so fond of are never really going to help me become a pro. 

“Focus, Nathi!” the Professor calls. 

I’m so absorbed in my thoughts that his voice startles me and I misstep, tripping over my own feet and sprawling on the ground. 

The Professor bursts out laughing. “See what happens when you don’t focus?” 

As I push myself to my feet I can feel my outrage building to explosion point in my chest. Reinecker is so right. I’ve had enough of this rubbish from people who think they know what’s best for me. It’s time I start thinking like a star. 

“You know what?” I shout in fury as I turn to face the Professor, “I don’t need your help with these stupid exercises.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is Nathi totally overreacting or is he right to take his destiny into his own hands in this way?