Chapter 46: The final match
The final match saw them going up against their old rivals, the school team of Libei County’s other senior high.
In the past, the sliding tackles had been ceaseless, their football matches even having turned into gang fights several times. This time, however, they shared similar emotions as they hugged one another before the match began, even performing the routine of huddling up and yelling the customary ‘let’s go!’ together.
Of course, it was another matter on the pitch entirely. The game was exceptionally intense, intense clashes occurring all over the pitch as if the players were all high on drugs. While they had all claimed beforehand that they minded not the outcome, in truth, who wouldn’t wish for their final, farewell match of senior high to end with victory for their side?
Another reason for the exceptionally intense atmosphere was that there really were too many spectators today. Aside from the students of the schools both old and new, there were also a number of teachers as well as their opponent’s cheerleading squad present. The stands were filled to the brim, with even the aisles all crowded with people.
Amidst their youthfulness, who wouldn’t want to demonstrate themselves in this kind of situation?
Scanning the crowd, Xu Tingsheng saw many familiar faces. Old Zhou sat smoking in a corner, and also sitting there were Vice Principal Lou, Fang Yunyao, Yao Jing, Ye Yingjing, Apple, Huang Yaming and Tan Qingling. Tan Qingling was already confirmed to be repeating the year, having joined the classes of the new twelfth graders.
“Where’s my sister? …Not giving me face at all?”
Xu Qiuyi waved towards Xu Tingsheng from a corner of the stadium beneath the stands. Beside her stood Wu Yuewei. The two had hit it off too well conversing and arrived late as a result.
Xu Tingsheng smiled, waving back.
Then, bang! An opposing defender launched a powerful kick and the ball slammed directly onto his head.
Amidst great laughter on the stands, Xu Tingsheng spun around blankly. Where was the ball?
The striker from the other team had already gotten the ball into the penalty area.
Where was the defender?
The defender was in the opposing side’s penalty box. Didn’t the captain say it? If you want to score, run forward.
0 : 1
Similarly a graduate, the goalkeeper truly felt murderous.
Afterwards, amidst further consecutive errors by Xu Tingsheng, the score became 0 : 2.
“What’s wrong, Tingsheng?” The captain came over and asked, “Focus! I’ll go back to defend.”
With the best defensive midfielder of Libei County in defense, Libei Senior High’s defence finally took a bit a of a turn for the better.
Xu Tingsheng’s sense for the ball was also slowly recovering. Despite not having played for nearly 8 years, it was only the feel that had been lost. His game instincts still remained, and his stamina was even better. Xu Tingsheng loved football with a passion. He began sprinting, intercepting passes, passing the ball, immersing himself whole-heartedly within the contest.
The captain shot over a long pass. Shielding the ball from the defender behind him, Xu Tingsheng made as if to catch it with his chest…then suddenly spun. Bewildered by his change of position, the defender lost track of the ball. Meanwhile, having long since run past him, Xu Tingsheng sped along with the ball, sprinting into the penalty box.
Having already arrived at their positions, the two strikers had upraised hands, asking for the ball.
“Who should I pass to?” Xu Tingsheng thought, “…confessing still seems more important.”
Xu Tingsheng faked the motion of shooting, startled exclamations resounding from the stands. At that moment when his right foot was about to slam into the ball, it suddenly turned into a light push to the side as the ball rolled before the feet of the forward who was intending to confess.
1 : 2
The forward who had scored sprinted, sprinted as he looked towards the stands. At the same time, he also reached out, trying to retrieve something from inside his shorts. With football jerseys having no pockets, wanting to hide something, it could only be hidden inside the shorts.
Beneath everyone’s bemused gazes, from his crotch was pulled out a…rose.
A rose, it was actually a rose. A rose hidden inside his shorts…shocked exclamations arose about the entire stadium.
Firstly, was this good? Secondly, roses had thorns. Wouldn’t ‘that place’ be stung? It was fortunate that it had only been a single rose. If it had been a whole bouquet…
Cheers resounded as the forward leapt onto the stands, coming before a girl and kneeling down before her on one knee.
Raising that rose which had been hidden inside his shorts, he stammered, “Three…three years, every day, every single day, never having changed…be, be my girlfriend.”
“Say yes, say yes…”
All were of one mind today in this very stadium.
Under thousands of gazes, the girl’s smile was like a flower as she received the rose, bent over…and lightly kissed the forward’s face.
The match resumed. Just having been successful with his confession, that forward sprinted about the entire field like a wild horse freed of its restrictive reins. It seemed like he wasn’t intending to play the entire match through.
Xu Tingsheng’s feel for the ball recovered more and more. Sprinting, sweating, hugging. At this moment, he no longer had the mentality of a 31-year-old. He was naught but a youth playing football. Youth should be like this, running rampantly as one desired, not knowing fatigue.
In the final minute of the first half, while breaking forward with the ball, the winger was sent flying off the pitch by a sliding tackle.
Shocked exclamations resounded alongside angry shouting. Still, the two involved in the clash were already up and hugging each other.
Corner, to be taken by Xu Tingsheng.
As if all the details within his memories had already returned, Xu Tingsheng raised his hand high, putting up three fingers-the ball would appear in the air three paces away from the captain’s current position.
Xu Tingsheng inhaled deeply, running up to build momentum. The inner side of his foot slid heavily past the bottom of the ball. Bang! The ball flew in an arc towards the penalty area.
With a fake move, the captain shot past the defender marking him, beginning his run. He leapt high upwards. Bang! A powerful header slammed the ball straight into the opponent’s net.
2 : 2
The spectators of Libei Senior High surged in excitement as all along the stands were upraised, rejoicing arms.
The captain was pushed to the ground, his team members leaping onto him one by one.
Extricating himself from the human pile with great difficulty, the captain ran towards the stands, throwing over a flying kiss…
On the stands, thousands of eyes followed the trajectory of the flying kiss as if it were a tangible entity. At a corner of the stands, a new twelfth grader junior reached out and lightly ‘caught’ the flying kiss, pressing it to her chest.
During the break for half time, walking towards the side of the pitch, the captain slowly removed his captain’s armband, personally putting it around the arm of the new captain.
In the second half, a few substitutes were made for Libei Senior High, wherein even Fu Cheng, not a member of the school team, got a chance to enter the pitch.
“What position will I play?” Borrowing a jersey and putting it on, Fu Cheng asked rather nervously.
“Just kick however you like,” The captain said.
Fu Cheng felt like he was just here to kick whatever, but it was Xu Tingsheng who got the ball the most in the midfield, and he repeatedly pushed Fu Cheng to sprint forward, continuously passing the ball over before Fu Cheng’s feet…
“What’s that bastard thinking? He can’t be trying to do me in, right?” Due to receiving the ball the most yet being somewhat inferior in terms of technique and reaction, Fu Cheng was pathetically gotten the better of by several of their opponent’s sliding tackles.
After having been slided a few times, Fu Cheng grew smart. As long as a sliding tackle was incoming, he would leap up and and fall ‘agonisingly’ to the ground before it had even contacted him.
Now, Fu Cheng fell once more.
Penalty-the referee pointed to the spot.
“W T F? But i didn’t even touch him, okay?” The opposing defender cried out aggrievedly.
“He did,” Fu Cheng said with a sincere expression, “It really hurts.”
From what had been agreed upon earlier, the penalty was to be taken by their goalkeeper, goalie against goalie. With goalies forever understanding goalies the most, the goalkeeper of Libei Senior High made no mistake with the penalty, lightly tapping the ball into the net.
3 : 2
Three whole years. As a goalkeeper, this was the first ever goal he had scored these three whole years. He spread his arms wide apart, sprinting towards the stands…
Having seen a rose pulled out from inside the shorts, having seen a flying kiss being received, the excitement of the spectators had already been drawn to a maximum. In comparison to the match, these were clearly more interesting. After all, many here were not really interested in football itself, not really being aware of what was unfolding on the pitch as they had merely come here just to see their friends or partake in the bustling crowd.
What would it be this time?
Beneath the guesses and expectant gazes of all, the goalie grew confused amidst his running. Didn’t everyone run while looking to the stands after having scored? Therefore, he had run as well. Still, he didn’t have a girlfriend, and also didn’t have someone he wanted to confess to.
The goalie halted and looked bemusedly at the stands for a few seconds before he raised his hands high, then…bowed deeply…
“I love you…all of you.”