He was on the ground. Face down, his nose buried deep in the damp mud. It smelled of crumpled grass, moist stones and fresh sweat. He lay there not sure if he should get up for spasms of pain were racing their way to his head from the epicenter of the injury, his knee. A deliberate planned tackle. A whistle was heard. He looked up, supporting his body on his palms and turned around. The sun was at his maximum, laughing at him over his shoulder and beating the heat upon his neck. He closed a hand around the knee and began to wipe the small, firm streaks of blood oozing out of the wound. I could have scored this one, he thought. He picturised himself just a moment ago going solo with a defender and the next moment he was down. The tackle was uncalled for and brutal. The culprit stood with his hands on his hips, with his body totally covering the referee's as he was sent off the field. A free kick. So close. He got up and stretched. The pain seemed to lesses but was present as a continual reminder. As the ball was placed, the coach looked on hopefully. Clifton was going to take it. The injured forward turned his head. He looked at Clifton and smiled. Clifton smiled back. They knew what they were going to do. This was their chance. He pulled is stockings up and tightened his laces. The stockings were looking discoloured with the blood around them. It did not matter. Now was the time. Now was the chance. As Clifton readied himself, he took his stance. No one would suspect him to do it. Only clifton knew as they had practised this for months. He saw Paneerwala his eyes wide in anticipation. He saw vinesh frantically trying to get away from the opposition defender. He smiled. As the whistle blew, he ran blindly towards the far post. The moment it left Clifton's foot everyone knew where it was going to go. It was flat and low and was racing to the place towards the far post. He ran his normal pace but felt as if the ball would somehow miss him. Maybe he was weakened by the fall or Clifton fired a little too much into it. He ran putting every ounce of energy there in him. And dived, the edge of his foot making contact with the ball. A small subtle contact. The ball went faster and higher than expected and hit the crossbar on the lower side, but went in. He didn't wait to see that. He was in a world of his own, racing away. Gone was the pain of the injury, the worry of the championship, the innumerable fouls, tackles and abuses of the game. He ran along with Clifton, jumping, celebrating as his other team mates gathered. They laughed effortlessly, like small children, their shirts soaked, but their eyes shining. The final whistle sounded as they ran over the edge of the stretch, spraying each other with water. The coach smiled and let them be. He came upto the coach and gave him a hug. The sweat and dirt didn't matter. Someone was proud today and it showed. Maybe this is what it feels like to be God, he thought. And closed his eyes as vinesh emptied another bottle of water on his head.
p.s.: I miss school days! (sob sob)!!