So I’m still getting shooting pains in my legs as I dribble the ball forward to where Henry is waiting anxiously for it.

“Pick it up,” Reinecker calls from the sidelines, “we don’t have all day!”

Henry shrugs and smiles at me. Reinecker has paired us up to play one-on-one. We have no other choice but to pit our skills against each other.

I pick up speed and feint to the left before pushing past Henry and kicking the ball into the net. 

“Nice goal,” Henry says with a smile. 

I grin as I fetch the ball from the net and hand it to Henry. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. It’s simply playing a friendly game against one of my teammates. No problem.

“I don’t think you boys are trying hard enough,” Reinecker snarls, his mouth curling at the edges with a mean smile, “so let’s make this a bit more interesting. The winner will play in the qualifiers on Saturday. The loser will sit on the bench.” 

As I look across at Henry I can see that his smile has completely disappeared. This is no longer a friendly match between teammates. This is a competition. And I know just how hard Henry’s worked to be on this team and how much he wants to play in the qualifiers. The problem is I feel exactly the same way. I’ve worked far too hard to let this go easily. Henry and I are friends, but we both instantly know that in this competition it’s every man for himself. 

Henry dribbles the ball forward and then stops in front of me.

 “I have to win this, Nathi,” Henry says, his small face lined with concern. 

“Me too.”  

Henry nods. “No hard feelings?”

I’m still shaking my head when Henry responds by shooting forward with the ball. Caught by surprise I swing around to catch him, but Henry back pedals the ball quickly and spins around to catch it. I stumble as I try to change direction, which Henry uses to his advantage, pounding the ball home into the net. 

“One all,” Henry says. 

I wipe away the sweat on my forehead. Henry is small, quick and very agile. This is not going to be easy.