There’s a buzz of excited chatter as the team crowds into our changeroom at the Streetskillz facility. The rumour that Karl Reinecker is our new coach has spread like wildfire and we’re all speculating madly about how he’ll train us.
“He’ll focus on the midfield,” Henry says with certainty, “the Germans are famous for their methodical play and we need to make sure that we’re strong there.”
“Are you joking?” Khaya scoffs.
He doesn’t openly mock Henry anymore because I simply won’t stand for it, but Khaya still struggles to take anything Henry says seriously.
“He’s a striker,” Khaya continues, “so he’s going to make sure that we can hit goal from any distance.”
“He’s going to do all of this and more!” a voice booms.
We turn to see a muscular blonde-haired man standing in the doorway of the changeroom. His eyes are dark and fiery and his handsome face looks strangely angry and dissatisfied.
“Boys,” says Mr. Naidoo, walking into the changeroom, “gather round.”
We jostle and push each other in our eagerness to get to the front.
“As some of you may have heard through the grapevine, I’ve appointed a new coach. I feel you’re playing well and with some professional expertise you’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the South African street soccer championships.”
Mr. Naidoo looks across to the blonde-haired man with a smile.
“So I’d like to introduce you to your new coach, Karl Reinecker.”
We cheer and clap with excitement until Reinecker raises his hand for silence.
“I’ve watched the tape of you playing,” Reinecker says, “and you are terrible.”
There’s a long silence in the changeroom. We look around at each other in shock.
“You have no teamwork, your skills are rudimentary and you lack discipline,” Reinecker continues, his fiery eyes sweeping over us, daring anybody to challenge him.
I feel myself shrink under the gaze of the German ex-pro. I’ve been feeling so good about my position in Streetskillz, but suddenly I’m not sure that my self-confidence is warranted.
“With my help, you have a chance,” Reinecker says, “but without my help, you will be nothing. Now suit up and get out onto the pitch. Those not out within three minutes will do laps.”
With that Reinecker spins on his heel and stalks out of the changeroom. As captain, I know I have to speak to Reinecker about the team’s strategy and before this introduction I’d already thought through what I’d tell him. I decide to go ahead as planned, but my palms feel sweaty as I jog nervously after the German, clutching Silver’s book against my chest.
“Mr. Reinecker?” My voice cracks as I call him. How embarrassing.
The new coach stops and turns, “What is it?” he says, glaring down at me.
“I just thought you should look at some of our strategies,” I say timidly, handing the book to him, “so that you can get an idea of how we play.”
Reinecker takes the book and flicks it open. As he turns the pages a cruel smile twists his lips.
“This,” he says, holding the book in front of my face, “is complete rubbish! Typical African soccer, all flourishes and tricks and no real substance.”
With a flick of his hand he sends my father’s book spinning through the air and into the rubbish bin in the corridor of the Streetskillz facility.
“If I see you with that book again,” Reinecker says, “you’re off the team.”