Chapter 99: Shu Guang Has Arrived
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The craze as well as hype for the new century and new millennium passed by quickly. There was no change in life. The world did not suddenly become high tech when the clock struck midnight and people still needed to squeeze into buses to go to work or school. Gas was still being used to cook and boil water, not solar energy. Computer networks had not reached a point where it could be implanted into the human brain yet.
According to regulations, the soccer team’s training was supposed to be put on hold. They could only concentrate on their training again after the final exams. After the Spring Festival, the team would hurry to Shanghai to participate in the 15th National High School Soccer Championship. It would last 14 days and there would be 64 schools competing for seven rounds to determine the year’s champion.
However, Zhang Jun could no longer focus on who would become the soccer champion as he wholeheartedly prepared for his final exams. With Su Fei’s meticulous guidance for over a year, his current grades stabilized at the middle upper level. He did not feel anxious about the final exams like before.
After three and a half days, the final exams finally ended. Naturally, there were those who were happy and those who were anxious. However, the players from the soccer team did not have time for that. On the second day after their examination, they gathered in school according to Liang Ke’s request, and began their intensive training.
Zhang Jun entered the soccer club room and noticed that the qualifier’s match table on the wall had been replaced with the National Championship’s match table. Shu Guang’s first opponent would be Guang Ming High School from Dalian. The team was last year’s runner-up.
This news came out before the exams, but Liang Ke did not announce it because the opponent was extremely strong. He was afraid that this would affect the team’s focus during their examination.
Guang Ming had lost to Zhongyuan in the finals of the previous year. However, their strength was not to be underestimated. It would be wise to say that Shu Guang needed to look up its opponent as it was entering the nationals for the first time.
As Zhongyuan failed to enter the National Championship, Guang Ming automatically became the number one seeded team. Their match with Shu Guang would be the first match, also known as the opening match.
The team members were all discussing matters around the table. Zhang Jun was the only one not taking things seriously. He turned his head and asked Su Fei, “How long did you take this time?”
“Four hours. Half an hour faster than before,” Su Fei said with a smile.
“Do your knees hurt?”
“Nope!” Su Fei shook her head.
“Yeah, right!” Zhang Jun muttered to himself.
“Zhang Jun! Come over here and look at this!” An Ke called him over. “Our first match is going to be against last year’s runner-up! Looks like we’ll be going home after the first match!” An Ke said worriedly.
“Yeah! An Ke, just cancel the booking for your room. After the match, you can just take the train home.” Ren Yu De also added “worriedly”.
Yang Pan butted in and sarcastically said, “Ren Yu De’s right. I talked to Old Liang and I believe we can refund your train ticket.”
“Hey! I was only joking. Why so serious?”
“Oh! You were just joking? Haha!” Kaka gave An Ke a strange look.
Zhang Jun felt that if he did not say anything, An Ke may go berserk again. Then, Shu Guang would really be finished even before the battle started.
“Alright, alright. Honestly, there’s nothing to worry about. So what if they were last year’s runners-up? We already defeated last year’s champions! Are we still afraid of the runners-up? There’s nothing to worry about. We’re aiming to be national champions!”
Zhang Jun raised his arm, feeling that his pose would look cool. However, the entire room became quiet. Everyone just stared at Zhang Jun until he felt embarrassed.
“This… Don’t look at me like that! Don’t leave! Guys, don’t leave! An Ke, Ren Yu De, Kaka, Yang Pan, where are you guys going? Hey…”
Spring Festival came and went. The only difference from the usual celebrations was that they did not eat and drink to their hearts’ content. Liang Ke had warned them that those who gained weight upon returning would have to run 10,000 m every day.
Regardless, Zhang Jun would have paid attention to his diet even if Liang Ke did not mention anything. If he wanted to win the National Championship, he needed to strictly control himself. However, it was cruel as he could only salivate in front of good food, and he had to face such a cruelty almost every single day.
On the fifth day of the Spring Festival, the entire team gathered in school. They then took a school bus to the train station before taking a train to Shanghai.
The team occupied half of a carriage. It was the first time they all traveled together like that. They played cards, chatted, listened to music and read books. The carriage was filled with laughter and their long journey was not a boring one.
Su Fei was together with Zhang Jun the entire time. Even a fool could see that their relationship with each other was different after New Years Day. Everyone understood what was different between them.
Thirty-six hours later, they finally reached Shanghai.
“Dear passengers, we are stopping at Shanghai. Welcome to the vibrant city of Shanghai. Thank you for taking this train. We wish you a happy journey! Goodbye!”
“Shanghai! We’re finally here!”
“Wow! It’s so beautiful!”
“Luoyang really can’t compare to such a big city.”
The players who participated in the National Championship expressed their excitement for the first time.
The organizing committee had arranged for all the participating teams to stay in two hotels and the hotels were very close to Shanghai Stadium.
There would be a brief opening ceremony in the afternoon on the next day, followed by the opening match. Hence, Shu Guang would go to the stadium that afternoon to adapt to the place. Each team would be given half an hour. Guang Ming would be using it at 4.00 pm while Shu Guang would be using it at 4.30 pm.
As Shu Guang defeated the previous year’s champion to qualify for the National Championship, the media commented that their quality might be a mystery but they were not to be trifled with given that they defeated Zhongyuan. But they would be competing against Guang Ming, the previous year’s runners-up in the first round. Shu Guang’s lack of national-level experience might not bode well for them. They may end up returning home after the first round.
Only Luoyangs ‘High School Soccer’ predicted that Shu Guang may create history. However, other media outlets ridiculed it as ‘localism’. They said that Shu Guang had already created history when they ended Zhongyuan’s fifteen-year undefeated streak. There shouldn’t be any delusions that the rookie in this championship could achieve any breakthroughs when faced with national-level strong teams.
When the Shu Guang players stepped into the Shanghai Stadium, they could not help but study the turf.
Guang Ming High School had just finished their training and were walking off the pitch. Most of them had expressions like they saw a group of country bumpkins. Even their coach who was being interviewed by reporters talked about the team’s goal to win the championship, potential opponents in the semi-finals, and his regret at Zhongyuan’s defeat, making it seem like it was a pity that they missed the chance to face a worthy adversary. Given all that was said, there was no mention about their first-round opponents that defeated Zhongyuan to qualify and were training behind them, Shu Guang.
Shu Guang was like a traveler coming and going in a hurry. In the past fifteen years, there had been too many of such fleeting teams. A national-championship regular like Guang Ming had a thousand and one reasons to look down on Shu Guang.
The opening ceremony and the opening match would be held one day earlier than the other matches. So, it would be a highly anticipated match. Liang Ke feared that the team would be too nervous before the match so he deliberately visited them in their rooms the evening before to talk to them and try to relieve the pressure.
He pushed open the door to the first room and saw no one.
He searched the second room. There was nobody there.
The third room was also empty. He stood at the doorway and looked at the empty rooms, unable to comprehend the situation.
He went into the fourth room and found Yang Pan reading in bed while wearing earphones. Yang Pan did not seem to care about Liang Ke’s appearance. Liang Ke took a look and decided not to bother him. He then quietly closed the door and left.
At that moment, he saw Zhang Jun coming out of the elevator wearing slippers and holding a can of Coke.
The two of them went down to find a quiet place to sit. They saw players from other teams coming and going. Some of the aces were still being interviewed by the reporters.
“Where are the others?” Liang Ke asked.
“Kaka is calling his family. He’s feeling a little homesick.”
“Hmm.” Liang Ke nodded. “This is the first Spring Festival he’s spent away from home. It is easy to feel homesick when alone.”
“Ren Yu De was dragged away by An Ke to play billiards. They said they needed to compete for the best billiards player in the team. The others went to be spectators. Yang Pan is reading in his room.”
“Hmm. And the others?”
“The others? That’s all.”
“What about Su Fei? She has always been with you the past few days.” Liang Ke looked at Zhang Jun meaningfully, causing Zhang Jun’s face to turn red.
“Ah, she is in her room. She did not come out after eating dinner. I do not know what she is doing.”
“Su Fei is a nice girl. You are very lucky.”
“Haha! Do not pretend to be a gentleman in front of me. I am only thirty. I am very clear about all your playboy tricks. Alright. I won’t talk about this anymore. What about the preparation for tomorrow’s match?”
“There is no problem!”
“Haha! That is good. You are the ace scorer in the team. You better not lose confidence!”
“Relax, Coach! My objective is to win the championship. I will not give up!” Zhang Jun raised his voice.
Liang Ke looked at Zhang Jun. He then turned his head around and looked at the people coming and going from the hall. “National Championship…”
“You guys are here!” Yang Pan walked over. “I saw that the rooms were empty and came out looking. Coach.”
Liang Ke nodded and pointed to the recreation room. “Everyone is in there.”
Yang Pan looked at where Liang Ke was pointing to and then laughed. “If any of the reporters see them in the recreation room, we would surely see ourselves in the newspaper tomorrow. ‘Shu Guang’s players have given up and the entire team is partying around.’ Haha.”
It was at this moment that a reporter came over. They had guessed that they would not be able to find any more information and decided to dig into the opponents of the top seeded team.
“Hello. I am a reporter from the Shanghai Satellite Television Sports Channel.”
“Hello.” Liang Ke replied with a sense of propriety. He did not show as much excitement as the other coaches when faced with a camera.
“Shu Guang defeated Zhongyuan and will participate in the National Championship for the first time. However, they would be facing the previous year’s runners-up, Guang Ming, in the first round. As a coach, how do you feel about the battle tomorrow?”
“Our championship is the National Championship!” Liang Ke merely replied with this phrase.
The reporter was taken aback. He saw that Liang Ke would not speak more on the topic so instead he turned his attention to Yang Pan who was sitting to a side. He recognized Yang Pan as Shu Guang’s team captain. “Classmate Yang Pan. How does it feel to participate in the National Championship for the first time?”
“Our objective is to become the national champion!” Yang Pan coolly replied.
“This is…” The reporter looked as though he saw a UFO. He then turned his attention to Zhang Jun. He did not know who Zhang Jun was but saw that Zhang Jun was wearing a sports jersey with the words ‘Shu Guang’ on it.
Zhang Jun recalled the qualifying matches. Yuan Gang, Liu Peng, that team captain of Yang Guang whose name he does not know, Sima Hongxin, Ma Ni, Fan Cunjie, Ding Ding, and also the injured Li Yongle. He suddenly felt as though there were many people behind him. If he gave up, they would not forgive him.
“Luoyang does not lack good players. However, only one team is allowed to qualify. We represent those that were not able to come. They used to be our opponents but now they are backing us. Do you think we would lose so easily with so many people supporting us? So, our objective is…”
“Aha! There is a reporter interviewing us! How rare!”
Just by listening to the voice, one could tell that An Ke had returned triumphantly.
An Ke was in a good mood. Behind him was the resigned Ren Yu De and the other teammates. Seeing that the reporter was in the middle of an interview, the guy with thick skin rushed up and snatched the reporter’s microphone. This action shocked the reporter. Although he wanted to get it back, it was already too late. An Ke stuck his face in front of the camera.
“Ahem! Everyone, listen to me! All participating teams better be careful! This is because, we, Shu Guang, have arrived!”
His loud voice reverberated in the hall. Everyone turned to look at the one holding the microphone, standing tall in front of the camera with his teammates behind him.
After lunch, the team sat in the hall and then waited for a while to go to the stadium by bus. The television was broadcasting a special on the national tournament.
“Look! I’m coming up on the big screen!” An Ke smiled triumphantly at the screen. The broadcast was now showing Zhang Jun’s interview.
However, after Zhang Jun was done, the screen cut back to the studio. “Thank you for watching. We will see you again in two hours!”
The team burst into laughter.
“Eh? What happened? It’s impossible! I clearly spoke to the camera!”
Ren Yu De lightly said from the side. “You think everyone else is an idiot like you and won’t cut it out?”
Just as An Ke was about to go berserk, Su Fei appeared with a string of protective amulets in her hand.
Zhang Jun took his amulet. ‘I see. She locked herself up in the room making these yesterday! How long did she take to make all this?’
There was an amulet for each one of them. Even Liang Ke and the substitutes had one. Only Su Fei would be this considerate.
The opening ceremony and the opening match of the 15th National High School Soccer Championship would be held at Shanghai Stadium, home ground to Shanghai Shenhua of the National Soccer Jia-A League.
The opening ceremony was the same as always.
The participating teams entered and their respective representatives went on stage to give a speech which showed their determination. The representative of the referees would also need to declare their determination. The teams then left the pitch to make way for a short segment of musical and dance performances. A big shot would then give a speech and declare the opening of the 15th National High School Soccer Championship.
Fifteen minutes later, the players from Shu Guang and Guang Ming were back on the pitch, waiting for the start of the match while the other teams stayed to watch. Guang Ming was the favorite to be champions and it was natural to study their first match.
Zhang Jun and Ren Yu De stood at the center circle. Yang Pan was on the right flank but close to the half-way line.
Kaka, Wang Ning and Li Hao stood parallel to each other. This was not their coach’s request. It was their own arrangement. He thought about what Zhang Jun said to him before the match. “Since they all look down on us, let us use this goal to give them a wake up call and tell them that Shu Guang has arrived!”
“Good afternoon to the audience at home! CCTV and Shanghai Television presents the opening match of the 15th National High School Soccer Championship to you live! On one side is Guang Ming High School from Dalian, the runners-up of the championship last year and the top seeded team! On the other side is Shu Guang High School from Luoyang who are first-time qualifiers after defeating Zhongyuan High School! Now, the match is about to begin!”
The stadium quietened.
The referee put the whistle in his mouth and took a deep breath. *Beep*
Zhang Jun kicked the ball to Ren Yu De then quickly made a run forward. Ren Yu De then kicked the ball backwards to Kaka.
Kaka received the ball. He adjusted his body and then made a long pass. The ball flew towards the right side of the pitch.
“Ah! Shu Guang have already gone on the offensive with long passes. However, they seem to have been rash. No one would be able to receive that pass and it would fly pass the goal line. No! Shu Guang’s No. 7 is really quick!”
Yang Pan ran along the right flank really quickly. He reached the ball as it landed and crossed from the goal line towards the middle.
At this time, Zhang Jun had dashed forward. He used his speed to dash past the defenders and rushed towards the front of the goal. He then leapt up high and did a bicycle kick.
“Goal! Goal! It has only been eight seconds since the start of the opening match! Shu Guang have already scored a goal! This is incredible! Even the players from Guang Ming are dumbfounded!”
Everyone better watch out. Shu Guang has arrived!