A group of supporters in a bar get emotionally involved with their team.
|"I wonder if it will ever stop raining?" The bartender voiced his thoughts out loud, his eyes glued to the giant TV screen in the corner of his bar. It was the final of the First Division Soccer Championship, and his club “The Golden Eagles” was playing the “The Black Stripes.”
The finals were being played in the picturesque city of Sandton which was the headquarters of the Stripes and their supporters in the stadium outnumbered the Eagles by 5 times. The finals were delayed due to an unseasonable downpour in Sandton.
The bar was located in the hardcore “Eagle” country and today, it was choc-a-bloc with supporters. The Eagles were confident of winning as local lad Mervin Rafter, the star mid-fielder was in outstanding form. No one had expected the Eagles to reach even the quarter final stage. But then Mervin’s sensational performance had surprised everybody. He was playing only his first season at the age of 18 and was already the top scorer in the tournament.
In one corner of the bar, Mark sat with his friends drinking dejectedly. The rain had proved to be such a spoilsport. The local town had prepared for a huge celebration. Their best previous performance had been 36 years ago, when they had lost in the semi-finals.
“Damn the rain,” Mark remarked, swigging from his bottle of beer.
He signaled to the bartender for a refill. The guy sauntered across, cursing under his breath, in the choicest expletives.
Mark chuckled when he heard him. The man glared.
“Don’t blame me, man. Blame him,” Mark responded, his index finger pointing to the ceiling.
The man did not respond. Mark shrugged with an expression of helplessness.
“It’s on,” a voice screamed with excitement.
All eyes turned to the TV screen. The rain had stopped and the referee had decided it was right to start. The players were walking on to the field. The Eagles looked smart in their red and black uniforms. The Stripes looked all business-like in their whites.
“I hope the field is not too wet. Mervin gotta be careful.” A voice clicked with concern. No one paid any attention. They all wanted to get on with the celebration. Victory was a foregone conclusion.
The game started at a furious pace. Mervin was on action right from the word go. It was just 5 minutes into the game, when he earned a free kick just outside the penalty area. The Stripes formed a human cordon in defense. Mervin trotted a few steps in his customary style, and kicked the ball. It curved wickedly, managing to beat the human cordon. But it landed right into the hands of the goalkeeper.
The whole stadium sighed with relief.
A chain of expletives was heard in the bar. Mark was clutching his bottle nervously, His heart skipped a beat. “That was so damn close. The boy gotta be careful.” He closed his eyes and muttered a silent prayer to God.
The match resumed. The Stripes set up a great move from the left flank. Within seconds the ball was within the penalty area. The center forward passed brilliantly to the right winger. He shot the ball like a bullet at the goal. The goalkeeper was beaten hands down, but a deft left foot managed to ward off the ball just inches from the goal line. It was Mervin. The stadium groaned, and the bar sighed in relief.
“That was close man.”
“It sure was.” Mark clutched his glass nervously. “This was just not going right,” he thought. They should have been up by at least a goal by now.
This time the Eagles counter attacked swiftly. Mervin displayed his famous dribbling skills. He cut past three of the midfielders, before making an exquisite pass to the center forward. Alas, it was ruled off side. The bar groaned again and the stadium sighed in relief.
“This is not going right man," the bartender commented. “ Bad luck boy.”
The first half ended with both teams locked at zero all. Mervin had come amazing close to scoring, but God was not on his side today.
The second half began well for the Stripes. They scored immediately. The stadium erupted with a huge roar of delight.
The Eagles counter-attacked sharply through Mervin. He managed to beat a host of defenders, decided against passing and shot at an explosive pace at the goal. The ball ricocheted furiously off the top bar of the goal post.
“Phew…Some luck…that was close.” It was Mark. No one commented.
“It's not his day.” It was a sad voice from the corner.
The Stripes scored once more before the close. They lifted the trophy 2-0. The Eagles were crushed. The upstart had been vanquished.
The supporters started drifting out of the bar dejectedly. Mark was left alone. He continued to drink, a sad expression on his face. He walked out of the bar late, his shoulders drooping. He looked at the bartender one last time.
“It was tough luck man.”
“Sure it was. I hope the boy does not take it too hard. He is only a kid. He has a lot more to go.” There was concern in the man’s voice.
Mark walked to his car and got in. For the first time that evening he looked at his blackberry. There was a message from his secretary. He read it avidly and then placed a call.
“Hello, Mark.” The youthful voice of Mervin Rafter answered on the other side.
“Well done boy. The odds were heavily for you. Our bets against has made us richer by a million at least. Not bad for one night. Eh?”
“Sure, Mark. I hope you keep your side of the bargain. I kept mine.”
“Check your account boy. This is net banking age.”
Mervin chuckled. He would sleep well. He was a rich man.
Word Count: 993