I sprint forward, gaining on Henry who has the ball and is streaking forward toward the net.
I challenge hard from the side, knocking him forward as I do so. I’m about to take the ball when a small, hard elbow lashes out, catching me in the solar plexus. I feel sick as the breath is knocked out of me and I drop to me knees, gasping as Henry strikes the ball home.
He actually has the cheek to walk back towards me and offer his hand to help me up. I knock it away in disgust.
“Nice elbow,” I scowl, breathing heavily as I pull myself to my feet.
“I’m sorry Nathi,” Henry whispers, his eyes wide and his face desperate, “I really didn’t mean to hurt you. I just can’t lose this.”
“Forget it. If you want to play rough then we’ll play rough.”
“Much better Henry,” Reinecker shouts from the sidelines “that’s the kind of play I want to see.”
We restart. I dribble the ball forward, waiting for Henry to try to tackle me. I’m bigger than him and my weight easily knocks him off his feet, and he’s still sprawled on the ground when I score easily.
“Good Nathi,” Reinecker shouts, “very good!”
Henry gets up and wipes away a bit of blood on his mouth from where he bit his lip falling. He looks at me with big eyes.
“I…I don’t want to fight, Nathi,” he says sadly.
I shake my head and say nothing. Henry was the one that started playing like this. Now I’m going to finish it.
“Right,” Reinecker shouts, as Henry is about to restart, “the next goal wins.”
I feel anxiety rise inside me. I can’t bear the thought of sitting out the game on Saturday. I have to win this!
Henry sweeps forward with the ball, moving from side to side, trying to wrong foot me. I’m totally focused on the ball, and as Henry moves to one side I charge in with a sliding tackle that drives the ball from underneath his feet and into the middle of the pitch. We both sprint after it, jostling each other for position as we reach the ball. I feel a surge of power suddenly course through me as I take control of the ball and drive it forward to the goal, slamming it home in the top right hand corner. In a moment the Streetskillz team are around me on the field, cheering and congratulating me. Reinecker is smiling and clapping his hands as he walks up to me.
“I underestimated you Nathi,” the tall German says, “you are a much tougher player than I expected.”
I know I’m supposed to be happy, but I can’t help but feel guilty as I see Henry’s small tear-stained face disappearing into the change-room.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Nathi won but he doesn’t really feel good about it. Why do you think Henry wanted to win so badly?