Fiction with Faustine: A Journey Into The World Of Moroccan Soccer: Part 6
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 six below.
It was only nine in the morning but the sun was beating heavily through the glass panes of the train windows, heating the cracked, synthetic leather seats to extreme proportions. Other passengers had already filled the available seats in the shade, so I had no choice but to scorch the back of my bare thighs as I sat down.
Soon after, the train started moving. As we left the station, I saw passengers with large, cumbersome bags maneuver their way towards the exit. Businessmen in black suits clutched their briefcases as they rushed along the platform, some trying to catch the departing train, some hurrying to an important meeting.
I looked at the ticket I held in my hand. On the top right corner was written Casablanca-Rabat Round Trip: 40.50 dirhams. The night before, I had regretfully broken the piggy bank my grandmother had given me as a young boy. I had an intuition that Hassan would be the missing link to understanding why Monsieur Larbi had killed himself, and I was willing to spend all of my savings to travel to Rabat in order to find him.
Tarik could feel his insides caving in as he prepared his response.
"Her name is Souad Zehria." The words slipped out of Tarik's mouth quickly, like couscous grains spilling out of a torn bag. He was immediately disappointed with himself at how fast he had given in to his coach's request. Souad would surely be upset with him!
He vividly pictured the time when he had accidentally torn one of the newspaper clippings she preciously collected. She had passed it to him on the bus and he had pulled a little too hard, causing the picture to rip down the middle. How furious she was! She had not spoken to him for two days, but the look in her piercing, dark eyes had made Tarik feel guilty for weeks.
The expression on Ahmed's face made Tarik understand that he expected more details.
"She lives nearby, 63 Rue de Salé, apartment 6D."
"Thanks, Tarik." Coach Ahmed released his grip and gave him a firm pat on the back. "Great assist, by the way... See you at practice on Monday!"
"Bye Coach," Tarik muttered under his breath. An intense wave of emotion overcame him, as he registered the conversation that had just occurred. He had to steady himself before he went back into the house. Not only did he feel like he had betrayed the trust of his best friend, but he was even more apprehensive about what Ahmed would do with the information he had just given him. Would he go to Souad's house? Would he talk to her parents and reveal her deepest and darkest secret? And would Souad still want to be his friend after she found out he had let her down?
I stared at the city map covered in scratches and markings that belligerent youth had probably inflicted upon the public property; I myself had done my share of vandalism. I now realized how inconvenient it was when inscriptions carved into the cheap plastic by knives or rocks covered the specific street name one was looking for. I made a mental note to myself to avoid this type of activity in the future.
After walking around for almost an hour and asking several people on the street for directions, I finally managed to find Hassan Mdaghri's home: 23, Rue Souika, in the heart of Rabat's medina. My backpack containing the address book and letters I had found the apartment clung to my sweaty shoulders. I rested a few minutes in the shade of a small alleyway, allowing myself to cool off after walking around in the heat. I wiped the sweat off my forehead with a piece of cloth I found in the bottom of my bag, and sat down to eat a few of the delicious snacks my mother had given me. How glad I was to have saved them! Finally, I was ready.
I knocked on the door firmly. An old man answered and gestured me in quickly, eager to keep the oppressive autumn heat out of the small house. I followed Hassan Mdaghri as he slowly made his way to a table surrounded by two wooden stools, in a room that seemed to serve as both living room and dining room. He took small, wobbly steps that revealed his old age. An older woman, probably the one I had spoken to on the phone a week before, silently brought in a pot of mint tea and a plate of oranges. As Hassan started to unpeel one of the fruits before my eyes, I was reminded of the deception I had used to infiltrate this innocent old man's personal life, and felt the need to reveal to him my true identity immediately.
"Mr. Mdaghri, before we begin I have something I must share with you. I am not actually Mohammed El Hachmi, from the Gazette de Casablanca. My name is Mustapha; I lived across the hall from Larbi Ben Barek. I was the one who discovered him dead in his apartment and called the police." Before the words had the time to sink in, I handed him the letter across the table. "Here, you should have this. It belongs to you."
Ahmed was pleased with how easily he had managed to find the mysterious girl. But that was the simple part. His next task--convincing Souad's parents to let her play for his girls' team--would be much more challenging. Ahmed also coached for the Association Cité Des Arts, the only female football club in the Rabat area.
Ahmed had signed a contract with the A.C.D.A club for two years. The conditions were simple: start a female football team and have a winning record by the end of the two years, or the already meager funding would end and the program would fall apart as abruptly as it had been created. Ahmed only had six months left to safeguard the future of women's football in Rabat, and he desperately needed Souad to help the team improve its standing. Female players were scarce, because the many social and religious constraints repressed their desire to play. Those who were talented did not even know it.
The A.C.D.A team played against women's football clubs from Marrakesh, Tangiers, Fès, and other big cities in Morocco, but these teams had been in place for longer and the A.C.D.A.'s debut had not seemed promising. Yet Ahmed was prepared to go at great lengths to protect the future of the program; he understood that football represented a way to trespass the barriers imposed on women, regardless of their age, religion, or socioeconomic background.
That night, he carefully weighed his arguments against one another, rehearsing the speech he would give to Souad's father. Ahmed was certain that the girl's parents would not approve of her playing. They probably weren't even aware she played football. He would have to be forceful, yet respectful of the family's traditions. That was always the issue when coaching girls.
Ahmed had gone around Souad's neighborhood, asking the boys he ran into about her brothers, with the hope of discovering more about her family before he went to talk to them. He had even watched her brothers play a pickup football game, from the well-hidden vantage point of a shady, low archway, and discovered that Souad's older brother Mehdi was also gifted. With only a little bit of prodding, and perhaps spying--but Ahmed preferred not calling it that--he had exposed an infallible way to persuade Souad's father. Ahmed was confident he had the upper hand in the situation: he would offer Souad's father a deal he would not be able to refuse.
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