FOOTBALL

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For following several days the coach made him practice solely to take shots at the goal under his personal supervision. Hundreds of them, from all possible angles. Cutting through various imaginary obstacles of the adversary. Changing the control of the ball from this foot to that. It was followed by putting the data of such practice in computer and analysing his personal strength and weaknesses. It was again followed by trying out different shots in innumerable imaginary situations. His confidence too soared to a new height.


The coach asked him just a few days preceding the actual play, ‘From now on I’d not let you practice the shots under my supervision. Because in the field you are to face the actual situation by yourself. Relax a bit. Don’t ever become tense. Do continue to practice the shots for about one hour daily, but with a relaxed mind’.

He stays in a one room flat in an apartment block. Being a star player, he is quite popular among the residents. There is a management committee of the apartment block. They have constructed a tennis court in the space available at the back of the building. He thought of continuing his practice there in solitude erecting a pair of goal posts. Only to practice shots twice in the day – in the morning and in the evening. He’d practice shots there - from different angles, with varying speed and keeping in mind diverse imaginary situations. He did not have any trouble to get the permission from the managing committee. He is a popular football player, an excellent scorer - pride of the apartment. Management arranged to set up the goalposts with pleasure. He just humbly requested, no one should be observing his practice just out of curiosity. His concentration would be affected. His motive was to keep his arsenal of shots secret. You never know, if there be some supporters of Sunrise Club in the apartment block itself.

There is a certain thrill in practising shots against an imaginary opponent – he surmised. His concentration and devotion reached such a level that he appeared to be actually seeing the defense goalkeeper between the goalposts. And turning his imagination into reality, he was continually excited by pulling one shot after another trying to beat the imaginary goalkeeper. He made it a practice to minutely examine all those video footages that were stored in the computer at night and got engrossed in planning the angle of the specific shot he’d practice next morning, its speed, at what angle the ball would swerve to enter into the goal in a deceptive arc etc. etc. His confidence too got a boost.

The sky was overcast during the practice session on the second afternoon. The wind was strong too. The factor of wind was not included in his planning till that moment. Now he saw, the shots are changing direction pushed by the wind and missing the mark slightly. He was, of course, not worried. He just resolved to consider wind as a factor from that moment on. He has to learn what adjustment one needs in the hitting angle on what type of wind. He was practicing that at that moment.

Then he noticed. There was another apartment block beyond a wall adjacent to their apartment. Three storied, similar to their block. The builder of both the blocks being the same, there is hardly any difference in its architecture, whatever difference is noticeable is just to adjust for the size of land and direction. Once while practicing, as the wind blew strongly two successive shots did not enter into the goal at the right post at the desired angle. The third shot, he put with extreme concentration, making rapid silent calculation entered in such a way that, if you say in rifle shooting jargon a perfect ‘bulls eye’. He felt excited and then his eyes veered to the apartment block on the other side of the wall, and, his eyes too got riveted in another ‘bulls eye’ – he saw a beautiful lady observing his practice intently from a second floor flat of the apartment. Had it been someone else observing him without his knowledge, he’d have been highly annoyed. But the rapt attention of this beautiful lady has brought a feeling of unexplainable pleasure to him. He does not know who lives there in the other apartment block. He has seen this beauty for the first time ever. But his feeling was that his smart shots were being watched with interest by the lady. Though he could not make out clearly, his mind’s eye could make out an enchanting glow gleaming on her face. Fair, beautiful lass – though standing a little too far, he guessed so. That day he practiced a few more shots exceeding his daily quota. It is not that he do not feel annoyed to practice so many shots all by himself. But he has iron resolve. So he keeps practicing pushing aside all such annoying feeling. Moreover a beautiful scene also helps him lessen his boredom. There is a tall tree with thick foliage adjacent to one of the temporary goalposts. A pair of bulbuls flies in and perches there every afternoon. As he shoots the ball, they fly aloft and come back again to the same spot. He enjoys the scene. Now some beautiful damsel has started watching him play from inside the window of the other apartment block. He felt a spurt of adrenalin in his chiseled, compact body and new rhythm on his feet, fresh intensity in his shots.  [Continued]


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