Sometimes nothing really happened, but sometimes something really terrible happened. I remembered the time our team did not have any uniforms because someone has painted them. Luckily, we could have a new uniform which I thought were better, but we also had to pay a lot of money for them. This season was not just like any season before. We had a new captain and we were also playing competitive soccer, which was a lot different than our normal soccer. Instead of playing with other local teams, we got to play in big tournaments and against strange teams from other cities.
The game was also more vivid; I remember the first game, against a team from Hue City-the city next to my city. The game we called “Derby Game”, it was totally different than anything I had seen, we were getting to play at a university, and against a highly ranked team. We had started the game, and man the other team was wild, they played with violence. After the first half with surprise and anger, we started to strike back, and I was sure the referee would hate to be in his position. Whenever he made a decision, he got a lot of bad word from players; it did not matter if he was right or wrong.
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That game finished with a loss for us, but the biggest disappointment was that two of my teammates were injured. We soon learned to live with this violence, and the funny thing is, we even participated in it more than other teams. After we gained enough points, we entered to the next stage of the tournament, which was called “Knock Out Stage”. This meant we could be kicked out of the tournament as soon as we lost a game. The tournament was held in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in my country. We stayed in a hotel with three other teams.
At the first sight I looked at them, I realized that the rumors about them were true; teams that qualified to this stage were really beasts, they were stronger, faster and even dirtier (in the way they play). We had about two days to practice and get used to the yard. The yard there was much prettier than in our city. The grass was greener, and there was more space for supporters. In the first day of the tournament, we had a game against Thu Do, a team from Hanoi City- our capital city. That team played really well, they ran all around the yard and I never saw any of them stop running.
Our goalie was taking a lot of their shots; he looked really exhausted just after 20 minutes. Then as we saw that they were too strong for us, we changed the tactic to “counterattack”, which was much safer and did not waste as much energy. I had to be withdrawn from the yard because of the change in tactic. At that time, I felt so disappointed but I could contain it. The change in tactic seemed to be good and gave us a positive effect. Thu Do still attacked very hard, they flowed into our yard part like a huge flood, but it was less dangerous than before.
Our defense did a very good job; they kept the enemies far away from the goalie as much as they could, they also tried to block every shot from the enemies. I was sitting on the sideline for a bit and my coach asked me how I felt, I said good and asked if I could get back in, he said, "Sure, but in a bit. " So I started do some exercises to keep my body warm and be ready. A bit later, the referee blew the whistle and the first half came to an end. The result was still 0-0 and we could not expect more. Our team went into the rest room and discussed a lot.
My coach told me that I would have a part in second half; nervous thought crossed my mind for a second but was soon gone. At the beginning of the second half, things were not much different from the first one; Thu Do still tried hard to attack and score a goal, but our defense line was really concentrated on to the game. Whenever Thu Do’s player got the ball, there were always two or maybe three of our players standing around him and were able to win the ball back. They kept attacking hard and we kept defending well.
After 20 minutes, Thu Do players were starting to get tired, I could see how heavy and exhausted in their running, and you know, that was the time we had been waiting for. The coach told me to pop in. We started to attack them back, and can anyone believe it? We scored at our very first chance; I was the one who crossed the final ball to Vu – our player, and with a genius header, the Thu Do’s net vibrated with our happiness and cheers from our supporters. We had been waiting for this time and it had come. I remembered a saying from a well-known coach that goes: “If you keep attacking but could not score, then you will be scored.
It was true this time. I could not tell you how Thu Do player’s faces looked at that time. It was some kind of disappointed, angry or maybe even shameful. After having a goal, we got back to defense style. The time left was still plenty, Thu Do’ player attacked in hopelessness, and for their honor. But that was it, the referee blew full time whistle and we won that game, a very tough game. We also paid a very expensive price because of that winning moment; our players were exhausted and did not have good form on the next game. We lost on our second game.
Although that was not something that really surprised us, we were still. I thought the main reason for our loss was that we were not really ready for this kind of tournament. We were determined to get back to our city and train harder and hope for a successful next year. That was also a lesson for me and my team, so that in next tournaments, we could have a better preparation in health and mental, and could avoid unnecessary injures. Until now, that soccer experience is something that I never forget in my life; that was not only my first soccer tournament, but also the most impressive tournament I have ever had.
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