Chapter 10: Lightning-Speed Goal
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The qualifiers were of a single-elimination format, and both schools would draw lots ahead of the match to decide at which school the game would be played. After a few rounds, the last four would then enter the semi-finals before playing either a third or fourth placing match, or the Grand Finals at Luoyang’s Xigong Stadium. Each match would be broadcasted live on the city’s television channel; considering Zhongyuan’s presence in the Luoyang competitive district, to enter Xigong Stadium was a great honor for many of the high school soccer teams in the region.
Saturday, 2.45pm; the National High School Soccer Championship Regional Qualifiers—Luoyang Division—the “Chenguang Cup”
The opening ceremony of the competition was held at Zhongyuan High’s stadium, and by 3.00pm, every match in 32 high schools would kick off simultaneously at the sound of the chief referee’s whistle.
After they drew lots, it was decided that the Shu Guang–Zhong Xin game would be played at Shu Guang’s grounds.
When Zhang Jun arrived in school at 1.30pm, he thought he was the earliest until he saw that almost everyone else had already arrived.
“Really! It’s still so early, what’s there to do here?” He exclaimed in slight disgruntlement.
“Aren’t you here too?” Yang Pan said a little loudly as he approached him from behind with headsets on.
“She dragged me here.” Zhang pointed at Su Fei by his side.
“Roger! Roger!” His teammate nodded.
Su Fei pointed at Yang and told her neighbor, “Do you see that? Now that’s chilling! Listening to music before the game.”
Zhang pouted. “It’s just to hide his nerves.”
Somehow, Yang heard him through his headsets. “No! No! Soccer and music are my life! Here we go! Ale, ale, ale! Go, go, go! Ale, ale, ale!”
His teammate flung his head around as he sang the lyrics to the French World Cup theme song, “The Cup of Life” at top of his lungs. As he did so, Zhang backed away and tugged their team manager along. “Be careful, he’ll bite.”
Three luxurious coaches packed with people drove into Shu Guang High as the clock hands reached 2.25pm; their opponents had arrived. The sight immediately caught the attention of all the Shu Guang players, who had just been warming-up.
“Zhong – Xin – Heavy – Machinery – Technical,” An Ke read out the words inscribed at the side of the vehicles. “Hell! Industrial schools are really loaded! One trip and it’s three buses; what a parade!”
The leading coach door opened slowly and the Zhong Xin team alighted; the other two buses were for their cheerleading team.
Looking at the huge buses, Zhang recalled the time when he, as a second-year, debuted for Kai Tuo Middle School alongside Yang Pan, Yuan Gang and Liu Peng. Their school did not have a reserved bus for the students then, and they ended up having to travel on a delivery truck; during that occasion, the coach and their advisor were seated up front, while the whole team was left to squeeze into the truck’s loading area.
But in the present, most schools now had their own team bus; some of them were even as large and as luxurious as Zhong Xin’s. It was just within a span of two years! In the blink of an eye.
At the sight of Zhang, who was staring intently at the buses, Ren Yu De asked, “What are you thinking about?”
The other mumbled in response, “Reform and Opening in China is such a wonderful thing!”
As soon as the Zhong Xin cheerleaders got off the bus, they immediately claimed a spot on the rostrum and sounded their drums. They raised huge flags and hung up a wide variety of their team’s slogans. They were truly a cheerleading team that had been through the “battlefield” and were capable of charging the atmosphere almost instantly. By comparison, Shu Guang’s students were properly indifferent towards their school team’s match; there were no war drums, no flags, no chanting of catchphrases, and not a single cheer.
Watching the opposing team’s cheerleaders seemingly switch the arena they were visiting into their home ground, even Shu Guang’s headmaster, Qiu Zhengmin moaned, “Just look at their vigor, how could we not lose?”
In the locker room, the roar of the Zhong Xin cheerleading squad seeped through despite locked doors and sealed windows. Zhang Jun smiled bitterly to himself. “Who are the home team again?”
Ignoring the rowdiness outside, Liang Ke growled, “I’ll name the team lineups first.
“Keeper, No.1, An Ke.
“Center-backs, No.3, Li Xiaopeng. No.4, Li Jieguang.
“Left back, No.6, Xie Yu. Right back, No.5, Liu Hui.
“Defensive midfielder, No. 8, Su Li.
“Left Midfielder, No.20, Ren Yu De. Right Midfielder, No. 7, Yang Pan.
“Attacking Midfielder, No. 10, Wang Bo.
“Strikers, No. 9, Zhang Rui. No.11, Zhang Jun.”
After listing the names of their starters, Liang Ke drew a breath before continuing, “In this game, we are playing in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond-shaped midfield. A player to watch out for is their No.10, Shui Huajun. His individual skill is excellent, and as an attacking midfielder, his desire for goals exceeds that of even strikers. In the quarter final match against Zhongyuan last year, he alone exerted heavy pressure upon their defenses. That’s why you must never relax when marking him.
“But, he does have a little weakness—he is not much of a team player despite his role as an offensive midfielder, and he tends to go on solo excursions. So, just watch him, and Zhongxin would not be much of a threat. He’s all yours, Su Li!”
“You can count on me, Coach!”
“Wang Bo, your task is to pass to the left as well as right flanks to unleash our agile and skilled wingers.”
“We must win this game! Our opponents may underestimate us, and this will be our chance. Just attack on the get-go and score one while they are still getting into the game!” To say the least, Liang Ke had become very confident about the team’s attack since Zhang Jun, Yang Pan and Ren Yu De joined the squad.
“It’s almost time,” Su Fei reminded him.
“Right! One last request, no matter what happens, all of you must stay on the offensive!”
It was Su Fei’s first time witnessing each and every beaming lad on the squad looking like men.
As the team stood up to leave the room, Yang Pan tugged at Wang Bo. “You just have to pass to the flanks. No matter how far, how fast and how strong, I will get to the ball!”
Watching Yang Pan’s departing shadow, a pensive Wang Bo caught up to Su Li and whispered something into his ear.
“Is that… okay?” Su Li asked in shock.
Wang Bo, with a face of utter seriousness, answered, “I trust him!”
Chen Huafeng arrived early on the Shu Guang grounds with camera in hand as he waited for the match to start. The game had attracted quite the number of reporters, but Huafeng knew that they all came for the Zhong Xin squad and their No.10, Shui Hua Jun.
The stands erupted as the three match officials led the two teams into the field, although most of the noise were notably cheers for the Zhong Xin school.
After the national anthem, the hosts shook hands with the visitors, although Zhang Jun allowed his hand to linger for a few moments when he grasped Hua Jun’s hand; he wanted a good look at the player Liang Ke had described as a man, whose “desire for goals exceeds that of even strikers.”
And he was truly a sight to behold, with a well-built body and a height of almost 185cm.
Looks like our captain will have his hands full!
Su Fei sat beside Liang Ke and asked while she arranged her notebook, “Coach, you just told them that we have to win. Are you really that confident?”
“… Then why did you…”
“I want them to have confidence. If we can’t win this, we won’t progress. The boys know this better than anyone else.”
Then, as if remembering something out of the blue, the coach rushed to the technical area and screamed, “Yang Pan! Yang Pan!”
After the player ran to him, he instructed, “Remember, without my permission in this game, no long shots.”
The referee looked at his watch, it was almost 3.00pm. He signalled for the teams to take their positions and they waited for his whistle for the kick-off. Shu Guang would put the ball into play first; Yang Pan and Ren Yu De were already standing tightly by the center line.
Even the stands were quiet as everyone waited.
The referee looked at his watch once more.
Zhang Jun hammered the ball to Zhang Rui and rushed forward into the opposition’s half with nary a care. Collecting it, Rui passed it to Wang Bo outside the circle, who in turn delivered it to Su Li.
That was when the captain raised his leg high, sending the ball long and far to the right. The Zhong Xin players as well as the spectators were left befuddled—did his nerves get to him already?
Indeed, Su’s powerful delivery had sent the ball straight to the baseline. But, as the ball almost went out of play, a shadow, as swift as the wind caught up to it—it was Yang Pan! With his 10.52-sec/100-m speed, he got to the ball right when it almost went out of play and crossed it in front of the Zhong Xin area.
Zhang Jun was already there at that exact moment, and he leapt for a header!
Precise delivery! A beautiful goal! A partnership of extraordinary synergy!
Almost as soon as he blew the opening whistle, the referee quickly blew another to signal the goal, 1:0! The game had just gone on for nine seconds, and Shu Guang was already leading 1:0 over Zhong Xin, the squad that placed fifth last year!
In the lead-up to the goal, the Zhong Xin players barely moved while their cheerleaders were also left dumbstruck. But the scoreboard slowly flipped and it was clearly 1:0; Shu Guang was leading.
Even the Shu Guang team and its supporters were left speechless—only Zhang Jun and Yang Pan celebrated the goal. When they finally came around, they exploded in delight, finally beating the Zhong Xin team in cheer.
Behind the Zhong Xin goal, Chen Huafeng was so excited he wanted to call his chief editor before remembering that he did not bring a phone with him. Nonetheless, he managed to capture the moment the goal was scored.
He always believed that the Shu Guang team could bring many surprises—but to the extent of a goal being scored just nine seconds after kick-off. This may have just been the fastest goal ever recorded in a national-level competition!