Linam picked up a soccer ball that was under the teacher’s desk on his way out, and ran to join some of his friends on the playing field. They started kicking the ball about.
Lilitha chilled outside against the wall in the sun with a group of other girls from the tutoring group. Analo didn’t join them. She wanted to be alone. She found a bench on the side of the field near where the boys were playing soccer and sat down to watch them. She had always loved soccer.
Her best memories were of sitting on her father’s lap when she was a little girl, watching a derby at home on TV with his friends, cheering when the team they supported scored. And at home, he would kick the ball around with her every day after work. But as she grew older her father wanted her to spend more time on her books and less watching TV and messing around with a soccer ball. She missed those days.
The ball was kicked out of the playing field to where Analo was sitting.
“Could you pass that ball to us, please,” Linam said, wiping the sweat from his face.
“Throw it, don’t try to kick it,” one of the boys laughed.
“Can I play with you?” Analo asked, standing up.
“Nah, you are a girl. You can’t play with us.”
Linam wasn’t one of the boys laughing as Analo kicked the ball. It landed right next to him. He held it against his chest before passing it to one of his friends. Then he turned to Analo and grinned.
“Wow, that was quite a pass. Why don’t you come join us? We are one man short.”
Analo played with the boys and she enjoyed it. When they could see how she could keep up they treated her with a new respect. They were impressed with her cross passes. It seemed to come naturally to her – like she had been playing actual games all her life – and it made her feel alive and excited.
Lilitha and her group of girls watched. The girls cheered for Analo but she noticed that Lilitha wasn’t one of them. Analo knew it was because of Linam. Lilitha was jealous. That’s what it was. She wanted Linam to herself in the tutoring class. She didn’t want her friend near him. And now Linam was paying her, Analo, attention.
As she ran off the field one of the girls with Lilitha laughed and said, loud enough for Analo to hear: “Lilitha, what’s going on between your crush and Analo? Did you see how they kept smiling at each other on the field? And I can see why. She really can play soccer and he’s impressed.”
* * * * *
When Analo was out of earshot Lilitha told the girls. “That’s all he’s impressed by. Anyway, Analo has a boyfriend.”
She found herself lying before she knew it. The girls would tell Linam and warn him off. But she felt sick that she had done that. The girls were right. Linam was paying Analo attention. She had felt the chemistry between Linam and Analo and it was killing her inside.
Analo had always done this to her. Even in primary school she took the spotlight from her. The boys were interested in Analo more than they were interested in her, and she got better marks. But now she, Lilitha, was the one getting better marks. And she was the one who was supposed to get Linam’s attention, not Analo.
After the tutoring class was over everyone was talking about how Analo had played and how good she was. Analo felt good as she walked to the taxis with Linam.
“I play soccer after school on Wednesdays,” he told her, before they reached the taxi stop. “There’s an after-school soccer club called The Safe Hub. Why don’t you join? I have an extra indemnity form if you want. You can ask your parents to sign it for you.” Linam fished in his school bag. “It was for my brother, but he decided soccer wasn’t for him.” He gave her the indemnity form.
“Thanks,” Analo said as she got onto the taxi. She looked at the paper like it was a magic ticket.
Tell us: Do you think soccer is a game for girls as well as boys? Why or why not?