Chapter 97: Aftermath
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
When Zhang Jun opened his eyes, he saw a white ceiling. He then turned his head to one side. He saw the window and noticed that the sky outside had not yet turn fully bright. He could only see a little bit of brightness at a corner in the east. Light ticking sounds continued from the small alarm clock on the table.
Everything was the same as usual.
Zhang Jun straightened his back and sat on the bed in a daze.
We won the championship, the Luoyang championship. We defeated the kings of this championship, Ke Da. Could all this just be a dream?
He then looked down and saw the gold medal on the pillow. He took the gold medal and examined it carefully. He touched the medal repeatedly and looked at both sides of it. He also put the cold gold medal on his face and closed his eyes in enjoyment.
Champions! We are the champions! Awesome…
However, Zhang Jun’s extreme complacency lasted for only a short period of time. He suddenly shouted and jumped from his bed before hurrying to wear his clothes.
It was Monday and he still needed to go to school.
Zhang Jun panted heavily as he rushed to school only to find that it was a false alarm. There bwas still ten minutes before the first bell.
He exhaled and was about to walk through the school gates when he suddenly stopped and blooked up at the red banner hanging over the school gate.
A banner celebrating the Shu Guang’s football team for winning the qualifiers for the national tournament.
He had talked about this to Kaka a week ago. Now, those words had become a reality.
“How about going on to win the national tournament?”
“If we lose, we’re won’t be friends anymore!”
Zhang Jun lowered his head. He put both palms together and laughed.
Zhang Jun sat down in his seat. The seat beside him was empty. This was An Ke’s seat and he would be absent that day. Zhang Jun did not know how long it would be before he could hear An Ke’s energetic voice again. The shorter the better.
Yang Pan sat at his seat leisurely as he flipped through his English book. Ren Yu De and Kaka were chatting to each other in a relaxed manner. Su Fei was completing last week’s Mathematics homework. The other students were also busy with their own tasks. It was a very normal Monday morning.
Are we really champions? Did we really win?
Zhang Jun was still skeptical.
The bell then rang and everyone started to walk out. The flag-raising ceremony was about to begin. Zhang Jun walked with the crowd and saw Su Fei standing at the hallway, smiling at him.
A year ago, in the same corridor, Su Fei had also smiled at him and said, “It’s because I like soccer!”
This was the sentence that had changed his high school life.
She had the same smile in the sports center the previous day, just with two additional drops of tears.
That noisy scene and that joy of victory was not a dream!
We won! We truly are the champions!
At the flag-raising ceremony, all of the soccer team members were invited up onto the stage. The team captain, Yang Pan made a statement to the teachers and other students present on behalf of the team. “We will definitely strive for the best results at the National Championship! We will not bring shame to our school and Luoyang!”
Prolonged shouts, cheers and applause came from the audience.
During winter in 1999, Shu Guang won their first regional championship and became qualified to participate in the National Championship held in Shanghai during the next winter holidays.
After being examined, An Ke was diagnosed with a mild concussion and needed to rest at home for 10 days. Li Yongle suffered a soft tissue bruise on his left knee and needed to use crutches until next spring. Fortunately, he could still play soccer after he recovering. The doctor did not lie to him when warning him that he might not be able play soccer anymore.
A week later, all the awards for the current tournament were announced.
Champions, the Shu Guang High School soccer team.
Runner-up, the Ke Da High School soccer team.
At third place, Dingding High School soccer team.
The Golden Boot award was given to Zhang Jun. He was the top scorer with 15 goals and was the best shooter.
The Golden Ball award was given to Li Yongle with his steady performance, and equally impressive offensive and defensive skills. He made a deep impression for obstructing Zhang Jun in the finals despite his injury. Zhang Jun won the Silver Ball for his continuous scoring in helping his team progress and Yang Pan won the Bronze Ball for his extraordinary plays.
The best goalkeeper went to Zhang Lintao from Ke Da. He played steadily and only conceded afew goals. In the finals, Yang Pan’s shots were repeatedly saved. One of the highlights was where he leapt at the ball and saved Yang Pan’s penalty kick, then shouting and pumping his fist in the air.
The best defender was Li Yongle from Ke Da. He once won the title of the best defensive midfielder in the National Championship. In matches, he managed to neutralize the opponent’s core players repeatedly. His performance in the finals, successfully defending against Zhang Jun in the last dozen minutes despite carrying injuries, was one of his best. If he was not injured, the final outcome may have been different. His only weakness was being poor with headers, but small defects would do little to obscure his immense talent. His future was one worth looking forward to.
It is worth mentioning that Liu Peng may have only played one match but his performance hadleft a deep impression on the expert judges and fans. He was the only one who could defend against Yang Pan one-on-one and his future was also bright.
The best midfielder was awarded to Kaka from Shu Guang. Hailing from Brazil, he had slick skills and outstanding footwork. His passes were the source of Shu Guang’s powerful offense. Without his passes, Shu Guang would fail to shine. This could easily be understood by observing the beginning of the finals. His understanding with Zhang Jun, Yang Pan and Ren Yu De was also an important factor that made their offensive combination rank first in Luoyang. He also had several wonderful performances with free kicks. However, Zhang Lintao and the goal posts stopped him from scoring. As an attacking midfielder, he also participated in Shu Guang’s defense many times and even tracked back to his own penalty area. This was very rare for high school students.
Zhang Jun was elected best striker with overwhelming superiority. He scored 15 goals which was far more than the rest. Many of his goals were also at critical moments and were scored spectacularly. His own Rising Dragon was technically exceptional and amazing. He was indispensable for Shu Guang. Without him, Shu Guang would be like a bladeless knife. Even the judges said, “This is a decision with no other options.”
The best team award was given to Shu Guang, the winners of the championship. The previous year, they did not even manage to enter the second round but now, the ugly duckling had become a swan. After two years of great effort and hard work, they have finally been elevated to the throne in Luoyang. They transformed from underdog to dark horse in just two years. It could be said that they deserved the honor of “best team”. They had always emphasized attacking soccer in this championship. In a soccer world that has gradually shifted towards utilitarianism, doing this requires great courage and quality. Shu Guang had both the courage and the quality. On top of that, they continued to persevere regardless of the situation they faced. In the end, they succeeded.
The fastest improvement award was also given to Shu Guang.
The best newcomer award was given to Lin Xiaofang from Shu Guang. Being a first-year who became the team’s main central defender, he constantly proved his worth in the championship. He also proved that the coach Liang Ke did not misjudge him. He made many close saves in front of the goal during the championship. More importantly, he had been learning and improving. This was the key to his selection as best newcomer. His presence brought a glimmer of hope to Shu Guang’s fragile defense.
The best coach was awarded to Liang Ke from Shu Guang. He was very good at training young and fresh players. The reason for this pick could clearly be seen by looking at the change in the rear line of defense and the changes on the tournament table.
The best goal was the hardest to decide. This was because many of the goals scored in the matches that year were very exciting. This gave the judges a headache. In the end, the goal scored in the final from a series of midair passes was chosen as the best. This was because it showed Shu Guang’s fighting spirit and their excellent teamwork. On top of that, it was the first golden ball and it allowed Shu Guang to win the championship. It was the goal that broke Ke Da’s monopoly on the championship. The Double Dragon by Yang Pan in the finals was chosen as the second best goal. It was the perfect combination of Zhang Jun’s Rising Dragon and Yang Pan’s powerful shot. Zhang Jun’s second goal scored against Yingcai was chosen as third best. The appearance of Rising Dragon was shocking. It was Zhang Jun’s imagination and skill that showed others that soccer could be played this way.
The last award was for best line-up.
The best lineup was in the 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Zhang Lintao (Ke Da). Reason for selection: A tenacious goalkeeper that could protect the goal from Yang Pan’s powerful shots several times. A strong shield for Ke Da, he had a comprehensive skill set. The only downside was that he was not as passionate as An Ke.
Left back: Zhang Yang (Ke Da). Reason for selection: The fact that a new player could be a firm starting player in Ke Da says it all. His fierce tackles intimidated opponents and boosted morale.
Right back: Liu Chao (Ke Da). Reason for selection. A defensive expert in one-on-one situations. Even Fan Cunjie would be somewhat afraid of him. Although he was at a disadvantage during the last phase of the finals against Ren Yu De, it did not affect his position as the top right back.
Center back: Luo Bin (Ke Da). Reason for selection: He was very successful in marking Zhang Jun in the early stages of the final. Later, after transitioning into a defensive midfielder, he was still tenacious enough to put pressure on Kaka. He was a center back skilled in marking.
Center back: Liu Peng (Kai Ta). Reason for selection: Kai Ta was not a strong team. However, his presence caused Shu Guang some distress. It was well deserved that he was recognized as the stabilizing force in Kai Ta. He was good at both marking a player and zonal defense. Even Yang Pan could not deal with him.
Left midfielder: Ren Yu De (Shu Guang). Reason for selection: He was second only to the master of dribbling, Fan Cunjie. However, in hindsight, he has already replaced Fan Cunjie’s position. His ability to always turn the tide in a match with dazzling individual skills thrilled soccer fans and gifted Shu Guang numerous scoring chances.
Right midfielder: Yang Pan (Shu Guang). Reason for selection: His powerful shots were extremely threatening: the speed of 10 meters per second coming from an attacker on the flank was very deadly. The speed of him breaking through along with the threat he posed in the penalty box were definitely a nightmare to defenders. His cooperations with Zhang Jun were also hard to defend against.
Defensive midfielder: Li Yongle (Ke Da). Reason for selection: A blazing fire on the pitch. His injury did not douse the flames. He successfully defended against Zhang Jun. He could not be blamed for losing that last ball. He was a key figure in offense and defense.
Attacking midfielder: Kaka (Shu Guang). Reason for selection: He was a key figure in linking Shu Guang’s offense. His passes were creative and lethal. He makes it look easy when he destroys the opponent’s defensive line with an enchanting smile on his handsome face.
Striker: Zhang Jun (Shu Guang). Reason for selection: He was a coach’s ideal striker; ruthless to weak teams and the terminator of strong teams. His individual skills were comprehensive, being particularly outstanding with headers and his use of both feet. If he could mature even more, he would become invincible.
Striker: Ma Ni (Yingcai). Reason for selection: Ranked second on the striker goal tally. His individual skills could not be overlooked. In a not particularly outstanding team that lacked support from the midfielders, his goals were particularly valuable and were mostly Maradona-esque.