NEW WORDS TO LEARN
- Briskly (adverb) To do something with speed and lots of energy
- Surge (noun) A powerful rush of emotion
- Substitute (noun) A person who acts as a replacement for someone else
The bright floodlights cast a ghostly light over the shadowy figures of Maria and Coach Dave as they walked across the soccer fields of the Junior Soccer Club on their way to the under-10 practice.
Maria, who was wearing a beanie to keep warm, glanced at Coach Dave walking briskly beside her. He still hadn’t noticed she was a girl. Minutes earlier she had told him her name was Mario because she felt she needed to hide her true identity to be accepted into the soccer club. Surprisingly, Maria felt quite comfortable in her disguise.
She was wearing the same soccer kit as everyone else and her beanie fitted snugly, covering her long braids and leaving only her face peeking out. Since it was nighttime, she could slip into the shadows if she thought someone suspected what she was up to. Besides, Maria and the boys around her were there to play soccer. She knew if she played well, no one would question her about who she was or where she came from.
‘If you impress me at this evening’s practice, I might let you play in Sunday’s match against the Little Cubs,’ said Coach Dave, waking Maria from her daydreaming with a jolt. Maria, who was careful to keep her voice low like a boy’s, said, ‘Thanks Coach Dave, I’ll try my best.’
Her fake boy’s voice sounded a little weird, and she noticed Coach Dave looking at her out of the corner of his eye. He opened his mouth to say something and for a second Maria thought he was going to tell her the game was up. Instead, he pointed to a short, athletic-looking boy and said, ‘Okay Mario, take these yellow bibs to Dean over there and join his team. And remember, if you play well now, you might get to play in the match on Sunday!’
Maria didn’t have time to think of what to say to Dean as she walked across to where he was standing next to Gift, another under-10 player. But she didn’t have to worry, because Dean spoke first: ‘You’re new. What’s your name?’ he asked.
‘I’m Mario,’ answered Maria in her boy’s voice. ‘What position do you play?’ asked Dean. ‘Umm … right midfield.’
‘It’s called right mid, dummy,’ said Dean, and the boys around him laughed. But Maria could tell he didn’t mean any harm, so she laughed too and jogged over to her position. Besides, if she wanted to play her favourite sport, she was just going to have to start acting tough like a boy for a while.
She felt a surge of excitement as the whistle blew and Gift’s team kicked off the game. Here was her chance to do what she’d always dreamt of doing! On the left side of the field the opposing team was dribbling the ball down the line, but Dean jumped into their path and with a confident move stole the ball and raced up the field. As he approached the goal with defenders closing in around him, Maria found herself open.
‘Dean! Dean!’ she shouted.
He heard her and in a flash he turned and passed the ball across the face of goal, straight to her. The ball slid along the dew-covered grass very quickly, but Maria knew it was now or never. She got her balance and, with perfect timing, connected her right foot with the ball. It slipped past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net!
Maria could hardly believe it. Her teammates hugged her and she felt so proud. ‘Well played, Mario,’ said Dean as they walked back to the clubhouse a little while later. ‘Maybe you’ll do that again at the match on Sunday.’ Maria smiled happily and climbed into the kombi for the drive back home.
When Sunday finally came it was warm and sunny. Coach Dave’s under-10s gathered in a circle on the field to listen to his team talk. In five minutes their game against the Little Cubs’ under-10 team would begin, and the coach needed to pick 11 players from the 15 who were gathered around him.
Find out in the April issue of Kids SuperClub!