In this journey called life there are many memories…. But in some by lanes of our memory, in spite of the time gap between the occurrence and the point when you think about the memory; you can paint a picture so clear as if it occurred yesterday….
One such memory I have is my second football match…. Now one may wonder how a second match is more memorable than the first match played but there is a perfectly logical reason behind this (and mind you.. its not the result of the match)…. In my school days, football was considered to be a guys’ game, though tacitly….. So in spite of having the infra for it, we dint have the means for it…. so after a huge campaign in favor of girls’ football, we finally got a team of 13…. I hope that people realize this was with 2 extras…. We got trained before school hours for about a month or so everyday…. With girls being as tough as they could.... Finally we put up a team for the Interschool Under-16 Girls Championship…. Our first match… against the last year winners….. To say I was nervous would be an understatement…. It made me think of us like one of those weak teams in the English films formed out of geeks or dark horses…. I mean they win in the end but they get wonderfully screwed in their first match….. Now this aint a happy feeling just before your first match, is it? Coupled with this was the fact that our guys’ football team was present to cheer for us….. It was very sweet of them but little that they know that their sheer presence pressurized us beyond all means….. But then we played and the only thing I remember of that match was that despite a drawn match we were so happy as if we had won it….. But the happiness was short lived…..
The next day in school, every member of the guys’ team made impressions of the girls playing…. They made fun of the fact that we drew the match when there were ‘Ample Opportunities’…. The principal wasn’t as proud and we felt we were losing face….. Then our second match was announced…. Was at Azad Maidan…. Now for all the non-Mumbaikars…. This ground is BIG…. In every sense of the term…. And for a small team like ours it felt gigantic….. And to add to this the guys placed bets in front of us… 1:5 if we lose and 1:1 if we draw….. We said these bets were weird…. You should get more if we draw and not if we lose….. They said they had to place realistic bets….. So with abysmally low confidence (and this was me and not the team…. Hopefully….) we entered the ground…. I don’t remember the name of the school but they were in yellow jerseys…. That’s the deal with girls…. We use aesthetic senses to identify things….. So it’s a purple book (and not the name…) or it’s a grey car (not the make or the number…) Enough of this digression though…. The first half started…. My team captain won the toss…. Ok …. That’s a good start….. Then we selected the non-sunny part of the ground…. It was all calculated…. If the first half we play on the side we selected then when we have to change the sides, the sun would changed positions and we would still get no dhoop….. I like to believe that we also strategize like our BIG teams would…. Almost about 10 min since the game started, our Star player fouled and they got a free kick….. I was like, “shit!!!! We r goin to lose…. No, no…. our goalie is awesome… she will save….” And much to my disappointment Yasmine couldn't….. We were shattered…. Time-Out!!!! our coach gave us some more gyaan….. Some tough words which would prevent us from making mistakes… poor Yasmine…. She was almost to tears…. It amazes me how girls can cry for everything….. In any case, we re-started the game and yes!!! One yellow jersey touched the ball with her hand….. YE…. We get a free kick…. Lorraine was going to take the kick…. A small trivia about Lorraine…. In our school ground, the only peson who could bend the ball like Beckham was Lorraine….. she would kick and the ball would go flying in the air and with a force that its destination would only be the goal post… nething coming in between would get crushed….. We pitied their goalie…. Coz it was her turn to cry…. Lorraine takes a run-up…. Comes to the ball and KICK….. But to our disappointment….. her ball dint bend nor did it leave the ground…. It went as slowly as it could and landed rite in front of their goalie…. I was like, “shit!!!! We r goin to lose….” Now it was Lorraine’s turn to be tearful…. 2 down from my team….. that’s on the face of it though…. Coz I was pretty sure at that particular moment all of us were down…… the game continued…. And the ref whistled…. HALF TIME!!!!!
We were scared to even face our coach…. Our coach tried to be calm, give strategies…. But Yasmine and Lorraine had already started crying….. So the Forwards were given some offensive gyaan…. Me and Poonam (the main defenders) were given defensive gyaan…. And then he said something that served as a faint glimmer of hope….. He said, “I have seen many matches turn in the second half and with the team I have I am sure this one will turn too….” With a firm resolute that we can’t let our coach, our principal and our school down we came onto the field….. The game started….. The defense was Rock-Solid (and this is not only because I was in the defender…) they made 3 offensive attacks and all combated head on….. Our turn to get offensive…. Manju our Centre Forward (or half as we called her) dribbled the ball till the half line, kicked it to Flavia….. Flavia then dribbled the ball till the ‘D’ and was about to pass to someone in the ‘D’ (after seeing Lorraine’s performance we dint trust ourselves with goos kicks)… She then realized that she was free (unmarked that is since we played man to man) and their goalie could not reach in time to block her kick, she took a chance…. She kicked…. And GOAL!!!! We had our first goal….. There were tears of joy in our eyes (now these are very different tears…) I know we dint win as yet but the knowledge that we couldn't lose was sufficient to trigger this action…. The game started again…. their goalie kicked the ball, intercepted by one of my team players and a passed to Manju…. Something happened and Kartiki fell on top of their goalie (and that was NOT intentional)….. Manju saw her chance and GOAL!!! This was like a dream come true…. We r winning….. We were about to cheer when we heard the ref whistle…. FOUL…. WHAT…. The goal not counted…. Why god y??? Last 10 min more and we were on the offence all the time…. but couldn't convert the chances we got…. The final whistle…. Score 1 – 1… a tie again…. we will get screwed again tomorrow in school we thought….. But it doesn’t matter I said….. The point is we DINT LET THEM WIN :) we took the match from their clutches and almost got into our clutches…. And that was a happy thought….. All that mattered then…..
As for the series, we won the next match and finally the tournament but I don’t know why this match made an everlasting impact on me….. Our principal then proudly announced….. “The first time my girls put up a team and they became the champions in mumbai….” We felt his pride when he announced this.... And much to the boys team chagrin, he added, “and my boys took two years to get this trophy here….”
Football is still played in my school and the same tournament has one entry from my school.... If I were there the next year, I would ve heard someone say, " Shit man!!! we are playing last years champs...." This thought itself makes me smile now....