I’m standing on the Streetskillz pitch. Our game against the Dragons is about to begin and Reinecker’s words are ringing in my ears. ‘Take Tong out.’ By the look on the coach’s face, those words weren’t meant as a request.
So I’m supposed to injure another player on purpose? To be honest that’s the worst thing I could ever imagine doing. Quite frankly, it’s not something I’ve ever even thought about before. I admit that my challenge on Khaya was very tough, but I didn’t actually mean to hurt him. I just couldn’t do that intentionally.
“Take him out as soon as you can,” red-haired Harris whispers to me.
I feel sick. But maybe it’s not too late…
“I’ve played Tong before,” I whisper back, “we don’t need to hurt him to win. We just need to…”
“Shut it,” Harris says, “you heard what Reinecker said – “‘Take Tong out’. Now get on with it.”
Harris jogs off to take his position as the referee gestures for Tong to start. The captain of the Dragons takes the kick off and dribbles the ball forward. Its all happening so fast I haven’t had time to decide how to play this, but seeing an opportunity, I run forward and slide in fast with a tackle, instinctively pulling back just before my boots crunch into Tong’s ankle.
The referee blows his whistle. Tong gets up with a furious look on his face.
“What the hell was that?” he shouts at me, “You think you’re some kind of tough guy now?”
The ref walks over to me and raises a yellow card.
“You try another tackle like that and you’re off,” he says sternly.
I nod. The crowd is booing me. I look down at my feet.
“Nice one,” Harris says with a grin as he jogs past.
Reinecker calls me over as the medics run on to the field to check Tong’s leg.
“You pulled back,” Reinecker hisses, “he’s not injured.”
Tong tests his foot and then gives the thumbs up to the medics.
“The killer instinct, Nathi,” Reinecker says, “you’ve got to…”
I turn to look Reinecker straight in the eye.
“You know what Reinecker?” My voice is surprisingly strong and even. “I’ve had enough of you and your damn ‘killer instinct’. Ever since you started coaching this team you’ve done nothing but try and turn me into your little robot. Well I’m not that, OK?”
Reinecker’s face turns a deep shade of red as he glares at me.
“You do what I tell you,” Reinecker says dangerously, “or you’re off the team.”
I look at him without flinching.
“You can’t throw me off the team. Because I quit.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK? If you were in Nathi’s shoes would you quit the team?