Chapter 88: That pandemonic confession (3)
This was a football match which had turned into a war, an unprecedented war over Yanzhou University’s pride.
At the final juncture of an incomparably important match such as this, as the final substitute for the final all-out attack, Yanzhou University’s coach finally roared the name of a newcomer at the top of his lungs: Xu Tingsheng.
“Who’s Xu Tingsheng? Is he good?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen him play before!”
“Zhixin, he’s on, he’s on! Will he score?” Lu Zhixin’s roommate pushed abruptly at her shoulder.
“Yeah…I, I don’t know,” Lu Zhixin clenched her fists, looking a little hopeful whilst also a little nervous.
Discussion was rife on the stands, but there were few who could provide an answer.
Actually, even Xu Tingsheng himself was a little taken aback by this. While he wanted to play, he hadn’t actually thought that he would really be given the chance to. The final substitute bore everyone’s hopes on his shoulders. It was truly too weighty a position to be in. Yet, Xu Tingsheng was just a newcomer. He hadn’t even managed to get onto the substitute list, only having been added in due to his teammate just happening to have suffered an injury right before the match.
It was clear that in having chosen to send Xu Tingsheng on now, it was not because the coach thought that he was all that prolific. Instead, it was because…
Xu Tingsheng looked at the substitutes’ bench. This being a competition in which Yanzhou University had been resolved to defend to the death, the starting lineup aside, the substitutes’ bench was basically comprised only of defenders and defensive midfielders. The original reserve striker had been Chen Xiao. Now that Chen Xiao had suffered an injury, that only left Xu Tingsheng.
With there being no other choice, there was only leaving it to fate?
This was what many people guessed.
Xu Tingsheng and the coach stood by the sidelines, awaiting the substitution. It was that doltish fourth year vice-captain who was to be substituted off. Of course, his performance in this match today had been in no way doltish. He had given his all and gotten the team out of a tight spot several times, also having encouraged his teammates all the way.
Currently, it was with his final vestiges of energy that he ran towards the sidelines. He wanted to finish the substitution as quickly as possible, yet his running speed was not at all high. He was already completely out of stamina. Otherwise, the coach wouldn’t have taken him off.
Making use of this short interval, the coach tried to tell Xu Tingsheng not to be nervous. However, looking at his clenched, trembling fists, Xu Tingsheng knew that the coach was actually more nervous than he was.
Jianhai Technological University’s coach leaned over, smiling, “What? Sending a rookie on to accumulate experience? …You’re surrendering, are you?”
As Xu Tingsheng and his coach ignored his blatant mockery, he continued, “I remember you saying in the first half that the spectators were very happy. Are they still happy now?”
He turned towards all the spectators of Yanzhou University, waving his hands as he yelled loudly, “Are you still happy watching? …How come you’re not laughing anymore? How come you’re not scolding anymore? …Continue laughing, continue scolding, why not!”
…Everyone was taken aback by this.
Perhaps he would be admonished over this after the fact, admonished for totally lacking the bearing and refinement of a university football coach…Still, this wasn’t important. What was important was: Once again, Yanzhou University had been humiliated.
Scolding erupted amidst the stands. As the coach, unable to suppress his fury any longer, made as if to dash over, Xu Tingsheng reached out and stopped him.
The vice-captain finally arrived by the sidelines. The hug they exchanged as they effected the substitution was more like him collapsing within Xu Tingsheng’s embrace.
“I’m leaving it to you, go…kill them dead,” He said, before collapsing straight towards the face of Jianhai Technological University’s coach.
Who could know whether this was due to his overwhelming exhaustion or had been intentional? Whatever the case, that collision was not a light one.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot…Your mission is to go to the front and shoot! Remember, shoot…just shoot!”
The coach repeated non-stop that Xu Tingsheng was to shoot, shoot. Yet, right as Xu Tingsheng took his first step onto the pitch, it was a single word that blasted into his ears from behind, ‘Kill!’
The first shout of ‘Kill’ came from the coach.
The second shout came from the stands from all the guys who were sitting there. Not having made their presence felt much at all earlier, the Yanzhou University male population among the spectators finally erupted with a collective roar of their own at this final juncture. If they could, every single one of them wished to take to the pitch and do battle at this moment. But they couldn’t. Thus, they released their hot-bloodedness and fury in a single, fervent, frenzied roar: Kill!
This was a word which originally wasn’t supposed to appear on a football pitch: Kill!
However, this was a war. Due to Yanzhou University’s stubborn resistance having produced a stalemate in the game, Jianhai Technological University who had never even thought about them as anything before this was frustrated to the point of their embarrassment turning into rage.
It was they who had began the humiliation, thereby bringing about the scoldings. It was they who had provoked this war, the two sides now being as irrevocably opposed as fire and water.
A deeper, more intrinsic reason was that the two universities had always been at odds, neither thinking very much of the other.
There were seven universities in this academy city. As those of Yanzhou University saw it, this being Yanzhou’s academy city, Yanzhou University should naturally be the indisputable ‘big boss’ amongst them.
However, those from Jianhai Technological University didn’t think so. Rather than Yanzhou, it was Jianhai Province that their name stemmed from. They were not Yanzhou Technological University; they were Jianhai Technological University. Logically speaking, they should be established within the provincial capital, Xihu City. Since they had unexpectedly graced Yanzhou City with their presence, how wasn’t it only natural to claim sovereignty there?
Anyway, the relationship between the two universities was not all that good. Separated by just a river, they rather disliked the sight of each other.
Originally, it had been the minimum results required for being accepted within as well as the fruits of their technological research that the two universities had always been competing in. Here, it was Yanzhou University which had steadily been gaining the upper hand in recent years. Today, however, this football match which originally shouldn’t have held such great significance had inadvertently become a battlefield in which the two universities were facing off.
It was like a swordsman having thrown off his white gloves in a fit of anger, a decisive battle beginning as a result.
Just moments ago, Jianhai Technological University’s coach had added yet more fuel to the fire, publicly humiliating their foe once more…there no longer existed a path of retreat for Yanzhou University. They might not even be able to raise their heads out on the streets in the future any longer.
“Kill, kill, kill!” The entire stadium resounded with the thirst for blood.
For the first three minutes after Xu Tingsheng had entered the pitch, he didn’t get to touch the ball even once. He was virtually stranded and without support on their opponents’ half of the pitch. There were already very few who were able to try to make a break over with the ball. Those balls which came flying over via his teammates were virtually all wild clearances.
Xu Tingsheng could only try to steal the ball himself.
The first time he caught onto a long clearance from a teammate, he had only just stopped the ball when he had found himself directly surrounded by three opposing players, the ball…swiftly being stolen by the Jianhai Technological University team.
Sighs resounded all around the stands.
Xu Tingsheng realised what he should do. He shouldn’t just relaxedly stop the ball whenever possible and control it before moving off to search for a chance. There was no one who could help free up space for him, no one able to draw away the opposing defenders. Even if there was someone with the stamina to come up and coordinate with him, it also required him being able to get the ball first.
He was not that proficient in breaking through defences with the ball. In having been the core of his senior high football team’s midfield in the past, it was actually passing which he was most proficient in, those laser-precise passes sent right before the feet of a teammate. Yet, who could he pass to now?
Therefore, as the coach had instructed, there was but a single choice which Xu Tingsheng had: shooting. Receiving the ball, then immediately shooting.
The second time he received a long clearance from the back, 35 metres away from the opposing goal, Xu Tingsheng didn’t stop the ball, directly volleying it forth with his main foot…too high, too far, and at too great an angle, the ball flew out of bounds beyond the sidelines.
It would be merely a throw-in for Jianhai Technological University.
On the stands resounded the sighs of the Yanzhou University supporters as well as the mockery and booing of those on the side of Jianhai Technological University.
Of course, after the sighing, the spectators of Yanzhou University still applauded Xu Tingsheng for his efforts. Anyone could see how tough a position he was in, how stranded and without support he currently was. Many a times, he was surrounded by two or three Jianhai Technological University defenders at once.
No one would ask so much of this newcomer, but they had heaped all their hopes on him nonetheless. If they didn’t have expectations of him, who else might they still have expectations of now? He was the sole attacking player on the pitch now, and there was just him who still had sufficient stamina.
The applause, whilst an encouragement, also conveyed all of their hopes, their anticipation.
Jianhai Technological University’s No.10 and captain walked over, flashing Xu Tingsheng a thumbs up, “Great clearance, little bro’s really nice.”
While knowing that he was being humiliated, Xu Tingsheng said nothing. There was no meaning in a war of words. All it would do was waste time.
Walking over, Yanzhou University’s captain told Xu Tingsheng in a low tone, “Ignore him, you’re too far away from the goal. Go to the arc of the penalty box; we’ll help you steal the ball once. Sorry, it can only be once…”
“Believe us, we’ll definitely steal this throw-in of theirs this time. After that, it’ll all be up to you.”
Jianhai Technological University’s defender nonchalantly performed the throw-in. He was indeed nonchalant in doing so, because Yanzhou University had not applied pressure and tried to steal the ball the entire match. Therefore, there was no reason for them to be cautious.
However, this time, right at that instant during which the throw-in was launched, all of Yanzhou University’s players who could still move, moved. Yanzhou University engaged in a frenzied scramble for the ball on their opponents’ half of the pitch for the first time this entire match.
This was them staking everything they had on this one final venture, drawing on all of their final stamina as they left their defence completely open.
At its unexpected nature, Jianhai Technological University’s players were caught completely off guard against Yanzhou University’s final frenzied bid.
As three of their players won the ball on the right flank in a concerted bid, it was Yanzhou University’s No.7, a winger, who got the ball. While he was a winger, he had played as a defender for all of the past almost 120 minutes. This was the first time he had had the chance to pass from the flank to the centre this entire match.
He did not go for the cross. Xu Tingsheng could not be considered tall.
A low pass whistled through the air right above the ground straight towards Xu Tingsheng, on the left side of the arc of the penalty box.
Xu Tingsheng blocked the opposing defender with his left shoulder, receiving the ball and sprinting…
The most familiar position, the most favoured angle, the most habitual footwork…In Xu Tingsheng’s senior high farewell match, he had once scored from the exact same position with a low curved ball.
What about this time?
With no hesitation whatsoever, Xu Tingsheng nudged the opposing defender slightly away with his shoulder, not stopping the ball as he struck directly out with the inner side of his right foot…
Everyone stood up, breathlessly watching the trajectory of the ball.
The ball smashed straight against the post and rebounded.
Sighs resounded alongside the unresigned, furious howls of the Yanzhou University players. There were also the long exhalations of relief as the tensed nerves of the Jianhai Technological University players relaxed…
Yet, a figure was already rapidly approaching the rebounding ball.
At the same time that Xu Tingsheng had completed the shot, as everyone had still been awaiting ‘the moment of truth’, he had already been sprinting into the penalty box for the kill.
Having personally taken the shot, it was only him who was most familiar with its imminent trajectory.
‘Bang!’ Was the sound of the ball striking the post, rebounding.
‘Thump!’ was the sound of Xu Tingsheng’s foot furiously striking the ball once more.
Those sighing had still yet to regain their wits when the ball was already in the back of the net. They were still caught up in their emotions, with many Yanzhou University players still in the midst of sighing, many of Jianhai Technological University still rejoicing…
Xu Tingsheng had already thrown up his arms, going wild in celebration.
The referee blew the whistle, pointing to the midfield. The goal was valid.
The whistle jolted everyone back to their senses. Seeing the ball resting at the back of the net and Xu Tingsheng with his arms upraised as he sprinted madly across the pitch…
With the second half of extra time close to ending…Yanzhou University had scored, had equalised.
The stands were filled with roars and cheers at the top of their lungs as the spectators of Yanzhou University leapt, yelled, hugged…that instant’s dramatic plot twist left everyone crazed.
“Zhixin, he’s scored, he’s running over!”
“Yeah, I know, I know…”
Xu Tingsheng was indeed sprinting in the direction of the stretch of stands of Yanzhou University where Lu Zhixin was sitting. However, in truth, he had already forgotten about that matter. He was just too emotional. In having run over, it was only because he needed to sprint, needed to vent those overwhelming emotions bursting forth within his heart.
Perhaps he wanted to celebrate together with they of Yanzhou University who had suffered humiliation and grievance at the hands of their hated opponents.
Her fists clenched tight, Lu Zhixin stood up, waiting. The entire stadium was currently filled with cheers of ‘Xu Tingsheng, Xu Tingsheng…’, while she was right about to receive the confession of he, Yanzhou University’s great hero. That…just how blissful was that?
Wanting not to be emotional would be a very difficult thing.
Yet…Xu Tingsheng did not run before the stands. As he ran, partway through his sprinting, he was hugged directly by the waist and lunged down onto the ground. It was the coach, it was the coach who did that.
Yanzhou University’s coach had already gone wild. Currently, he just deeply felt that his choice of substitution had truly been too wise.
It had not been a coincidence. It had not been that he had been left with no choice, therefore just leaving it to fate. It was not that he had tried to treat a dead horse as he would a live one…Everything had been within his grasp, he having long since planned it out. Yes, that was it. He had already discovered Xu Tingsheng’s extraordinariness long ago.
The other Yanzhou University players wanted to celebrate as well, but many of them could already no longer run.
Thus, they shouted, “Xu Tingsheng, come over…let this old man hug you!”
This sounded very much like people shouting for women in brothels in olden times, “Come, let this Master have you!”
Crawling up from the ground, Xu Tingsheng ran over and hugged his teammates one by one. Some hammered their fists on him as they hugged him, some virtually collapsed crying in his embrace, someone actually…kissed him.
Alright, Xu Tingsheng thought as he wiped the saliva off his face. He knew that his teammates who had been fighting it out for almost a full 120 minutes on the pitch truly were too moved, truly needed too much to let it out somehow. Previously, they had been too furious, too repressed.
Right here and now, all their emotions turned into joy.
With three minutes still left in the match, while Jianhai Technological University’s players felt regretful and desolate, their coach as well as their captain, at least, did not lose their cool. After having conceded, their coach quickly called the captain over to the sidelines, establishing their tactics for the rest of the match.
Yanzhou University’s players were already out of stamina. They believed that they would still be able to bring an end to this contest in the next three minutes.
Having finished their discussion, the coach raised his head and the captain turned, only to discover…Xu Tingsheng standing just right before them.
“What does he want?” This was what they thought.
“What do you want?” The No.10 and captain of Jianhai Technological University asked Xu Tingsheng.
Xu Tingsheng smiled before raising his index finger, bringing it lightly before his lips, “Shhh.”
The meaning herein was: Shut up.