This time of year, for a high school student, can be a bit of a whirlwind. As a footballer, that means that the end of my season and any reflections I have on it tend to get caught up in a haze of internal assessments, prizegivings and exams. However, in this brief interlude, I have had the time to stop and really think about the season that has just flown past me. Here are my Top 5 highlights of this year.
- The League Placing
It is a somewhat shallow highlight to have and far more quantitative than I traditionally am, but this season the league placing for all three of my teams cannot be overlooked. I have been lucky enough to be a member of 3 teams that nabbed 2nd place, two of which by but a singular point. So close and yet so far, but I cannot bring my perfectionist self to be overly upset.
- Tournament Week
I have never been to a school tournament week… wait that’s what I would have written two months ago. Now, I can say that I have been to one and it was amazing. You can read my post-tournament depression ramblings here, but suffice to say that spending a week bonding with my team and of course, escaping the clutches of a classroom, well and truly makes the highlights reel.
- The Mud Slide Game
It was 7am on a Saturday when thunderous rain woke me up and a familiar sense of dread settled in. Heavy rain on a Saturday, with a game scheduled at the infamous Sunnynook, is not exactly a recipe for getting some footy in. Yet as the hours ticked by NFF and AFF stayed silent and so I headed out into the abysmal Auckland day. The field was in bad shape as we warmed up and was worsening by the second. The rain continued and thus, by the time we and Bucklands Beach (who had to drive one hour for this farcical fixture) stepped onto the pitch, it could be more aptly described as a swimming pool.
As I and my strike partner stood with the ball over what we estimated was the centre of the pitch, I poked at the ball to see if it would roll. It did not. In the ensuing 85 minutes of madness, I played the worst and most enjoyable match of my entire life. The ball did not roll, no, and as a pacey striker with not much else in my locker I should have been angry. I should have been fuming when I was denied another goal to my tally not by the keeper’s gloves but by a puddle on the line. I should have been frustrated by the face full of mud or the borderline hypothermia and instead, I had the most fun I have had since I was a 7th grader. We played football without being terrified of the result; we had to stop taking ourselves as seriously. The mud slide game, as I have affectionately called it, was awesome.
Disclaimer: I should add that we won, which has slanted my perceptions somewhat.
- The Short Corner that Worked
Allow me to set the scene. Having lost to our local rivals Pinehurst (who had come down into Senior A from Premier and were looking to sweep straight back up) in our only other two previous fixtures, an overcast, rain-threatening Wednesday afternoon found us locked in a 1-1 arm wrestle on Kristin’s “FIFA Field”.
The equation was fairly simple; to have any hope of defending our title we had to beat what was arguably the strongest side in the league. The match was physical and end to end and both sides were getting tired. When we earned a corner with about 12 minutes to play, the only reason I even suggested taking it short was because I simply could not find it in myself to run from where I had seen my cross blocked to any sort of attacking position in the box. Hence, I stayed right where I had stopped, roughly a metre from the corner flag. Once it was all in motion I soon realised that our opponents were still talking to one another and had absolutely no idea what was happening. By the time one defender tried to press me, it was all too simple.
I’ve played football for 12 years. I’ve never had a short corner work in a game before. I have never really had the gumption to try one, to be fair, but I am glad that this time we gambled because the goal was incredible, and oh-we won this game too.
This is a weird one and if you’d shown number 5 on this list to 12th grade, hyper-competitive me, I wouldn’t have understood it. I, like most footballers, live for the match day. Yet, trainings in the wind and rain, on freezing Auckland nights, the same trainings that ate up at least an hour and a half of my day every single day, that probably lowered my chemistry grade more than somewhat, were without a doubt one of the best parts of the season.
I am not a fan of fitness. I will admit that. Sometimes, working out formations was boring. Being made to run a lap was irritating. Messing something up over and over again was frustrating. Yet all of these things took place with my team mates. We weren’t fighting tooth and nail for a win, we weren’t hell bent on beating another team, we were simply working with, for and against each other to be the best that we collectively could be. Sure, the fire of match day forges camaraderie but that bond starts with the hours on the training pitch.
And so, when all is said and done and my weekends are empty whilst summer leagues await, I am left with one thought; it really has been quite a season.
A lover of the game since the age of 4. Living and playing for club and school in Auckland and loving every second on the pitch (apart from the end of a losing match).