Fiction with Faustine: A Journey Into The World Of Moroccan Soccer: Part 5
Junior Faustine Dufka of the women's soccer team recently wrote this fictional soccer story for one of her classes. She has decided to share her piece with Husky Nation by releasing two parts a week. Read part five below.
"Hello?" said an older woman's voice at the end of the line.
"Yes...Hello. Is this Mrs. Mdaghri?" Was this Hassan's wife? Or did I have the wrong number? All the confidence I had mustered up before calling suddenly disappeared into thin air, leaving me nervous and starting to regret the entire undertaking. The pay phone was shaking slightly in my hand, and I could feel the plastic digging into my ear uncomfortably. The traffic in the street made it difficult to hear her little voice.
"Yes, may I as who is calling please?"
I cleared my throat and deepened my tone, praying that my higher-pitched, teenage voice wouldn't give me away immediately. "Hi, my name is Mohammed El Hachmi, from the Gazette de Casablanca. I am reporting on the death of Larbi Ben Barek, and I'd love to have the chance to speak with your husband. I understand they were quite close. Would there be a good time for me to talk to him?" The speech I had rehearsed a million times before the call came out easily, helping me regain enough self-assurance to not hang up the phone immediately.
There was no way anyone would take a sixteen-year old boy seriously, so I had to come up with an identity that would give me sufficient credibility to get in contact with Hassan. Then, I would tell him the truth about how I had found him, and personally deliver Monsieur Larbi's last letter. I set up a time to meet with Mr. Hassan Mdaghri the following week. I would have to take the train to Rabat from the Casablanca Port Station, and of course, skip school that day.
Right before the start of the match, the coach of the Lycée Français team had walked over to shake Ahmed's hand, with a condescending smirk that made Ahmed boil with rage. The play field was the one place where Ahmed refused to concede anything to the French. He always coached his boys to play fair, because he believed playing dirty didn't get you anywhere, in football, or in life. Despite Murad's absence, he knew his team would put up a great fight, no matter the outcome of the game.
The referee blew the whistle, and the boys started moving the ball around on the dirt surface. A few of his players had old, ripped cleats, but most were wearing tennis shoes or even sandals. The French boys, on the other hand, all had shiny, brand new boots. The two teams were fairly even. While the Lycée boys could string together more passes, they did not have as much raw, individual talent, developed from years of playing pickup games in the streets. The white boys played "pretty" soccer, as Ahmed commonly joked with his team, who was much tougher. They always left practice with cuts on their knees and new bruises on their shins: shinguards were an expensive piece of equipment that belonged to the school and were used for games only.
As the match wore on, the score was still 0-0. Both teams had missed multiple opportunities to finish. The time on the clock showed that there were only four minutes left to play. There was something about ties that Ahmed hated, but he had never been able to put a finger on it. Someone had to score... if only Murad had been there!
Karim had been playing very well and Ahmed was impressed with his natural talent. Ahmed would make sure to recruit Karim for the team when he entered high school next year. The brothers had the same style of play--excellent foot skills and fast-paced passes. It must run in the family, he thought to himself.
All of a sudden, Tarik was dribbling down the left side at full speed. Scissor right, cut left, and he had flown by the defender. Before the center back could reach him, Tarik curled a beautiful ball into the penalty box. Usually, there weren't any players in the box to finish his crosses, but Karim had gotten there in time! As the ball curved away from the goalie's hands, Karim jumped above all the defenders and headed it into the back of the net. GOAAAL!
While the ball was hitting the back of the net, Karim's cap was flying in midair, revealing a ponytail of curly brown hair bobbing up and down as the girl landed. Ahmed gasped, while the crowd was exuberantly cheering for the goal that would give the local boys the win, their attention fixed on the celebration. Before the fans had the time to notice what had happened, she was already gone, sprinting down the street.
Ahmed yelled at her to wait, but she ignored him. Following her was out of the question; he knew quite well he could not be seen chasing a young girl down the street.
"Attends!" He tried again, hoping the French would convey a stronger sense of authority, but to no avail. She had already been enveloped by clouds of dust in the distance, yet Ahmed was determined to find her.
That morning, I woke up earlier than usual. I ate breakfast with my father, like I did every morning before school. While I was eating, my mother handed me a few snacks to put in my backpack: a small bag containing dried apricots and dates, fresh figs, and almonds. The treats looked delicious; I would have to restrain myself from devouring them immediately. I knew I had a long day ahead of me and would want to save these provisions for later in the day. On my way out of the house, I yelled, "Mom, I might be a little late from school today, because I agreed to help Mr. Laumaillé reorganize the library shelves!" It seemed like a good idea to give myself a small margin of error in case the train was late on my way home.
After everyone had left the field, Ahmed headed straight to Tarik's home. He knew the boy's family quite well because he had coached their son since middle school.
Tarik's father opened the door, unlatching the flavors of fish braised in sweet apricots and dates. The fruity sensations were smoothly intertwined with the fiery aromas of cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne, making Ahmed's nose tickle with desire. He wondered if Tarik's family was having a celebratory dinner after the victory.
"Good evening, Yassine!"
"Welcome, Coach Ahmed! Great work tonight! Tarik came home thrilled about the win."
"Thank you," Ahmed responded. "The... ahem...boys...played very hard." He accidentally stumbled on the word. "They deserved it. Could I please have a quick word with Tarik? I'd like to congratulate him on the way he played."
"Of course, let me get him."
Tarik appeared at the door a few seconds later, as if expecting Ahmed's visit. Ahmed immediately detected the uneasiness in Tarik's strained countenance. They stepped outside of the steamy kitchen onto the sidewalk, into the privacy of the calm, evening breeze.
The streets were almost empty, but not quite. You could see a few children lingering aimlessly in the distance, kicking small rocks down the dusty street with their bare feet. Ahmed knew, sadly, that those who were out at this time of day had nowhere to be, nobody waiting for them with a warm, home-cooked meal. Ahmed wished he had the ability to help these children whom he knew would be sleeping outside, huddled behind a dumpster in the chilly nighttime air. If only the government did a better job to help its homeless youth!
"Tarik, I need to know who your friend was. She played marvelously, and I would like to offer her a position on my girls A.C.D.A. team." Ahmed firmly gripped Tarik's shoulder as he said this. He knew the boy would be easily convinced; he was too shy to argue.
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