Chapter 6: Warm-Up Match
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“Today’s practice session ends here. There’s still a match tomorrow, so everyone get home early and rest!” Liang Ke said as he waved everyone off the field. Zhang Jun remembered that he had something to ask his captain, Su Li and he stayed behind to help pack things up.
The entire time, Su Fei was running around trying to collect the balls that were scattered around the field. She had been knocking them around awkwardly—while not one of them seemed to follow her will, it did not curb her enthusiasm. The bizarre sight prompted a jibe from Su Li. “It’s like a princess chasing little pigs!”
Zhang Jun smiled at the appropriate simile. “Captain, there’s something I’m not clear about,” he asked. “Why were the seniors so excited when they heard about the match?”
“You’re new, so you probably wouldn’t know.” Su Li smiled. “I asked about this too when I was new here. Well, in a nutshell, our team is the absolute bottom-feeder in the Luoyang high school soccer scene. Every year, there is little chance for us to have a match other than the qualifiers for the national competition.
“And, it’s not like we do well in that either; we keep losing in the first round. So, that’s pretty much why no other team would even want to play a practice match with us. Now that we actually have a proper one, everyone’s excited.”
Although his leader wore a grin as he spoke, his squad mate did not miss the bitterness in his words.
Meanwhile, using both her hands and legs, Su Fei finally managed to chase down all the scattered “little pigs” and gathered them into a bamboo basket.
“Count them. Did I leave any out?” The team manager asked Zhang Jun with a sense of accomplishment. Despite all that, her work fell to blind eyes.
“Su Fei? Zhang Jun’s gone downstairs. You can look for him there.”
“Thanks aunty!” Su Fei turned and left the Zhangs’ apartment, thinking to herself.
It’s pitch dark out there right now, what’s he doing?
As soon as she left the apartment, she found someone beneath one of the streetlights; upon closer look, she saw that it was Zhang Jun—he was playing keepie-uppie. “Didn’t coach tell you to rest early for tomorrow’s match?”
Not stopping, her neighbor replied, “Can’t sleep if I’m not warm!”
“Zhang Jun, you’ve been acting weird today! I worked so hard when I wrapped things up after practice, and you didn’t even praise me!”
Zhang dropped the ball and wiped off a pinch of sweat. “That’s it? Really?”
“And you’ve never done warm-ups before sleeping!”
“Let me ask you this, Su Fei”—Zhang Jun replied, picking up the ball—”what would you do if people kept looking down on you?”
“Screw that! Of course I’d retaliate!”
“How would you do that? Argue with them?”
“No! Arguing is meaningless! I’ll do it through action!”
“Right! That’s right!” Zhang Jun exclaimed and applauded. “I’ve decided to learn from you!”
“Huh?” Su Fei was stumped.
“Shu Guang High has been scorned at for a very long time, so much so that as a student at Shu Guang High I’m too afraid show my face on the streets! I’ve decided that I’ll hit a hat-trick during tomorrow’s match!”
“You’re saying… you’re going to score three goals?” Su Fei asked gingerly.
“Yeah!” A chipper Su Fei leapt, high-fiving her friend in celebration.
“Whoa! I haven’t done it yet; there’s no need to be so excited, right?”
“My hard work these few days has paid off!” Su Fei squealed. “A hat-trick equals to a player scoring three goals! I was right!”
Zhang Jun stumbled.
The Xin’an County in the northwest of Luoyang was an impoverished district in the country. Still, contrary to many who believed that this in itself was a noteworthy feature of the region, there were many more breathtaking sceneries there. One example was Mount Qing’yao, a place where the vintage Chinese geographical text, “Classic of Mountains and Seas” was once poetically narrated: “Mount of Qing Yao, truly a favorable secret retreat fit for kings…”
After a 40-minute journey, the Shu Guang bus stopped outside the Xin’an Yi High School stadium. The facility was built leaning against a hill and bore the shape of a dustpan. Alongside it was a four-storey hostel building on the slope. Spectator stands were set up left and right beside the pitch, while a towering rostrum was set up on the right together with the locker rooms for both host and visiting teams. Beneath the slope was a basketball court.
There were already spectators waiting at the stands and the host team was also training on the pitch. At the sight of their opponents’ arrival, their coach approached to greet them.
It did not take more than a few exchanges for Liang Ke to hate the guy, who laughed at them. “Can’t wait for the game, haha! The big game is coming up; it’s good to pick up some confidence at least! Haha.”
At the sight of his fake laugh, Liang retorted humorlessly, “Us too!”
After a few simple warm-ups, the team went into the locker rooms where Liang asked, “Everyone, did you hear what their coach said?”
“Any thoughts? Are you guys fine with being ridiculed all the time?”
“That’s right! Let them see that we are no longer the old us!”
“It’s almost time,” Su Fei reminded the coach.
“Let’s go!” Liang Ke waved. “Zhang Jun, Yang Pan, stay behind for a bit.”
Both of them sat down again.
After everyone else left, Liang Ke stuck his face right in front of theirs and growled. “I only have one request, go crazy; there’s no need to save face on my behalf!”