It took Ace weeks to get used to the idea of selling drugs. He spent most of the time at the tavern because that was where his customers could find him easily. But he had no time to attend trials or join any local soccer team. He also had to help in the tavern, clearing empty bottles or cleaning the tables.
When he was free, he played soccer in front of the tavern with some young boys. And his luck turned: it was there where he met Pele – a local soccer coach who noticed him and was impressed by his skills. Pele invited him to join his soccer team.
“We practise from Tuesday to Friday. Five o’clock. You have talent, man. The way you control the ball is amazing,” Pele said to Ace, giving him his cell number. “Just call me if you get lost.”
Ace took the paper with the number on it and shoved it in his pocket. “Thanks, sir. I will.” He went back and joined the boys who playing soccer as Pele entered the tavern.
The thought of playing soccer again made Ace happy. He knew that he would get fit again, revive his dream. Then he remembered his job. Would Bra Themba allow him to go to the sportsground? How could he sell drugs if he was at practice for hours? Ace knew that was going to be a problem. Maybe he should forget about that thought, he told himself, disappointed.
But then he decided to take the bull by the horns. He would talk to Bra Themba. Soccer was his passion and he was determined to do anything to play it.
“Hei Ace!” Naledi called, standing by the roadside, holding two empty bottles in a plastic bag.
“Ao! Naledi!” Ace said, panting. He was sweating, his muscular torso exposed. “I didn’t see you coming.” Naledi smiled. Ace reached for her hand and touched her fingers gently. “Are you fine, mara?” Naledi nodded. Ace kissed her lips gently.
A boy whistled next to them, clapping his hands. Ace swivelled around to see who it was – a client called Stix. “OK, coming. Babes, just go into the tavern. I’ll walk you home,” he said to Naledi.
“So! Naledi … you’re dating boys from Limpopo now? How could you leave boys like me and date pari ya ko dispolaseng (a village fool) like this? Argh! O ya pora (you’re boring), man,” Stix said, sweeping his eyes from Ace’s head to toe.
“Shut up wena, Stix. What makes you think I would date a junky like you?” Naledi snorted, walking away.
“What did you use to charm her? Limpopo muti?” Stix asked, his hand stuck in his jeans pocket. A black bag was slung on his shoulder.
“What do you want, man? Stop talking about things you don’t know anything about.”
Stix handed him some money. “Give me the usual, boy. I need to recharge for practice.”
Ace searched his pocket and gave Stix a small packet of drugs. He threw his eyes at the tavern door. Naledi was coming back. Quickly, he hurried away from Stix. He couldn’t let Naledi find out that he was selling drugs.
“Are you done?” Ace walked towards Naledi, putting on his T-shirt.
Naledi nodded. “I didn’t know that Stix was your friend.” Her face looked serious.
“He is not my friend. Bra Themba wanted me to give him a message.” Ace tried hard to avoid eye contact with Naledi.
“Thanks God. I was worried. You don’t need people like him in your life. Believe me.”
“What? Do you know him?”
“He is my brother’s friend.”
“Oh, I see,” Ace said, and then smiled. “I’ve got good news, babes. I’ve found a team to play for. Some coach … Pele … saw me playing today and asked me to join his team. At least I won’t rust.”
“Pele? I know him. He is my brother’s coach. You’re going to join Scara’s team, mos.”
“Well, he better be good. Or else I’ll take his position. Unless he is a defender,” he joked.
“He is their number one striker. Even the Wits coach knows how good he is. They always come to watch his games. If things go well, they will sign him for next season,” she said, with a touch of pride.
“What? So it’s not just a local team, mos? It means I can also be noticed there.” Ace was excited. Naledi nodded as Bra Themba’s BMW came to a halt next to them.
“Ace, where are you going, monna?” Bra Themba asked.
“No Bra Themba. I was just talking to Naledi. I’m coming now.”
“Come to my office. I want to give you something.”
“OK Bra Themba. I’m coming now,” he said loudly as the car went off. “Babes, you heard, Bra Themba. Let me go back. We will talk later,” he said. Naledi nodded. Ace turned and ran back to the tavern. He went straight to Bra Themba’s office and sat on the couch. Bra Themba opened his wallet and gave him some notes.
“Here is your payment, sonny. It’s two thou. You’re doing a good job, monna. Keep it up!”
“Ta Bra Themba,” Ace said, counting the money. Then, “Bra Themba, there is something I need to ask you,” he said, nervous.
“What’s wrong?” Bra Themba looked at him with a frown.
“Today I met a certain man called Pele. He asked me to join his team. I was wondering if you can just give me two hours a day from Tuesday to Friday so that I could go to practice.” His body quivered a little, hoping his words sat well with Bra Themba.
His boss kept quiet for a moment, biting his lower lip. He then nodded and said, “I see. I know the guy’s team. It’s Tembisa Tigers. Many of your customers play for that team. It’s fine. You can go.”
Ace jumped up, excited. “Thank you, Bra Themba! Thank you very much.”
“Fine,” said Bra Themba, standing up ready to leave. “But, take some stuff with you. Use it as a chance to grow your market. These soccer boys really like coke. They are easy to get hooked.” He paused, grabbing his car keys. “OK, I’ll see you later, sonny. I want to meet my supplier. Sharp ne?”
“OK Bra Themba,” he said as he followed him to the car.
Even though he was elated at the permission, Ace was dismayed about what Bra Themba had said. Would not he get into serious trouble with the coach if he found out that he was selling drugs to the players? It was too risky, Ace thought. But he knew he had no choice but to do as his boss ordered, or he wouldn’t let him play soccer – and Ace wasn’t about to let that happen.
He would sell more drugs to keep Bra Themba happy. He just had to find a way to do that without being caught.
Tell us: Do you think it is usual for sportspeople to use a drug like cocaine to make them perform better?