The sportsground was teeming, everyone shouting, “Aaaaaace!” It was one of the best games that Ace had ever had on this soccer field. He had already scored two goals, so his team was leading 2-0 in the much-anticipated finals of the Festival Tournament. It was the richest tournament in Leboweng village.
“Aaaaaaceeeeee!” the spectators cheered again as Ace stole the ball from Thabo. He dribbled past the defender and shot. The crowd jumped up and down and cars hooted as the net shook. It was three goals for Ace and his team. The spectators started singing: “Ga ona yo a swanago le Ace wa rena (There is no-one like our Ace).
The referee blew the whistle once, twice, a third time, and the spectators flocked into the dusty field, everyone fighting to touch Ace. His team-mates lifted him up above all and chanted: “Captain, my captain!”
Finally, Ace got a chance to breathe as the crowd started heading towards the organisers who were walking into the field with a big trophy. During the presentation Ace was named player of the tournament, and the leading goal scorer for his ten goals in four matches.
“Well done, bro. You deserve these two awards,” Thabo said, walking home with Ace.
“Thanks man. I can’t believe we won the tournament. I–”
“Yah! Ace!” a voice broke in from behind them, interrupting. “I see that you are really enjoying your moment of fame as always. I wonder if all these people know that next year you’ll be repeating Grade 11 for the second time. Domkop!”
Ace halted. His heart skipped a beat when he heard that voice. He knew it was Lefa, his cousin. He immediately realised he was in trouble.
“Lefa! I didn’t realise that you were at the soccer field,” Ace said anxiously.
“Oh yes, I was … and I saw you playing. Boy, boy, boy! You’re so in trouble. I’m telling you. Just wait and see. I hope you’re ready for what’s coming to you,” Lefa said with a smug look.
“Please Lefa, I’m begging you. Don’t say anything to your mother.” Ace’s face was shining with concern.
“And miss out on fun? Never! I’m going to tell her,” said Lefa, ready to leave.
“Please, I’ll do anything. Anything you want me to do, man. Just don’t tell Auntie.”
“Anything?” Lefa stopped mid-stride. Ace nodded. Lefa stretched out his hand. “OK, give me all the money.”
“I want all the money that you won. They gave you a thousand with those two awards. I know. Give it to me and I won’t tell my mother that you disobeyed her. That you went to play soccer after she told you never to play anymore. No more soccer until you pass Grade 11, remember?” he said and paused, shaking his head. “Anyway, I won’t be amazed if you did forget. We all know that there is nothing in that big head of yours, domkop.”
“That’s not fair, Lefa. You can’t expect Ace to give you all his money. Have mercy,” Thabo begged.
“Wena homola (You shut up)! You’re the one who is misleading this domkop. You act as if you like him when we all know that you don’t. What kind of a friend are you anyway?”
“What do you mean? I care about Ace a lot.”
“Mxm! Tell that to someone else. Not me. If you cared about him you would have encouraged him to focus on his studies and forget about football. You’re of my age – two years younger than him – but you’ll be doing Grade 12 with me next year and he will be repeating Grade 11 for the second time. Don’t tell me nonsense, man.”
“But Lefa, monna (man). I need this money to buy my school uniform. Wena Auntie o ile go o rekela, mos (Auntie is going to buy for you),” Ace pleaded.
“Argh! Let me just leave. You’re playing with me, right? Just wait and see,” Lefa said and walked away.
“Please … wait.”
Lefa swivelled around. “Are you giving me the money or not?”
“OK. Let me give you half of the money then.”
“Stop wasting my time, domkop.”
Tears brimmed in Ace’s eyes as he pulled all his winnings out of his pocket. He looked into Lefa’s eyes as he handed the money to him, hoping his cousin would have some mercy and give some back. But no, he took it all and hurried away, whistling happily.
Tell us: Why might Ace let himself be bullied so badly by his cousin?