Accidental hero


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  1. #1

    Accidental hero

    I grew up in a small village in central Kenya. The village was a chaotic collection of permanent and semi permanent shacks that in a sad garish way, reflected the ‘wealth’ or status of the families that lived there. There are many stories to be told about this village, but the one I will tell you today started in a church.

    The main feature in our village was a Catholic Mission. Inside the carefully manicured leafy fence, rose a towering brick church, a health center and an events hall. These were large ornate buildings that stood in stark contrast to the village they served.

    Besides the weekly masses when almost the whole village congregated for three arduously long masses each Sunday, the church had various youth programs which included sports, drama and music festivals.

    For a bored teenager there wasn't much else to do after school in a sleepy village of less than a 1000 people. I therefore joined the church youth program and soon I found myself involved in dramatized re-enactments of the resurrection of Jesus during Easter, and the birth of Jesus during Christmas. There were ping pong tournaments, track events and host of other activities. Those were all fun but my real passion was to be involved in the coveted Parish soccer team..

    I was always a scrawny kid, not particularly athletic, and so it was always going to be a tall order for me to break into the team. That did not stop me from trying. I always showed up for drills, and would play as a winger during practice matches, but I was never good enough (skill-wise or size-wise, I still don’t know) to even make the bench during competitive matches.

    Until this one time.

    The year was 1998 and the local parish teams were playing in the final match to determine who would proceed to the next round in the diocese championship. We were playing against our fiercest rival who had always kicked our butts and were not too modest about it.

    On match day however, the first choice goalie was a no show. Naturally the number two goalie would start but there was a problem; the team did not have a reserve keeper. Don’t ask me why! The coach asked if anybody would volunteer as bench goalkeeper. My hand shot up. I so badly wanted to be part of the team that I did not even consider the consequences of what would happen if the number two keeper was to be injured. I was in it for the potential glory of Parish championship albeit as a bench warmer.

    As fate would have it, a couple of minutes into the second half, Jeff the number two keeper collided with an opposing striker and was down with a shoulder injury. I was watching this from the bench in utter trepidation and sighed with relief when Jeff stood up and shook off his injury. Ten or so minutes later however, Jeff signaled to the bench that he was in too much pain to continue.

    “Chris you are up!” Bellowed the coach, “start warming up!”

    I sat there for a few moments contemplating what was about to happen. I am actually going to have to play! I had never played in a competitive match in my preferred position as a winger, let alone a goalkeeper in a championship match!

    ‘Now!” Yelled Coach Mburu.

    “Ye--ess sir” I murmured as I as I sprung to my feet and started jogging up and down the touchline, wild thoughts in my head running faster than than my legs.

    Finally the moment came, Jeff touched glove with me, leaned in, and punctured my eardrums with something to the effect, “get eeem” and then wished me luck. I awkwardly jogged to my goal.

    With the game tied, the last few minutes of the half were a cagey affair with neither team wanting to concede a goal so late into the game. I did not have any save to make, my only touches of the ball being a couple from pass-backs from my defenders.
    That was going to change soon, I knew it at the back of my mind, I was terrified of the penalty kicks because then, there would be nowhere to hide! I would be exposed as a fraud.

    The final whistle went and my heart sunk!

    The coach quickly huddled up the team his mouth frantically spouting off dozens of scouting tips about the opponent’s potential kick takers. I kept nodding as if any of this was gonna make any difference.

    The first penalty kick I dived as I had seen goalkeepers do on Football Made in Germany and I guessed right, but the ball was high up and it went past me and into the back of the net. The sound of the ball as it whizzed by me, I almost pissed my pants. How am I was supposed to stop that!? As my body hit the ground, I realized that I had my eyes closed in terror!

    The kicks went as you would expect, goalies mostly guessing wrong and strikers breathing sighs of relief. With the penalty score at 5-4 for our team, if the opponents missed the next penalty kick, then we would win the championship and advance the diocese level. Everyone knew this, I knew this, heck I think the ball knew this.

    The crowd went silent.

    The only sound I could hear was my pounding heart over my heavy breathing. The kick was hit hard and slightly to my right. Almost in slow motion, I could see that with my dive and the trajectory of the ball coming at me, the ball would drill me right in the face. At the last second, I put two hands in front of my face, closed my eyes and let out a scream.

    All was dead silent for a moment.

    And then I heard a huge roar from the crowd. I opened my eyes and my teammates were running towards me and suddenly I was being hoisted sky high on the jubilant shoulders of my teammates. As luck would have it, I had stopped the penalty! We had won the championship!!


    Needless to say I got a hero’s treatment in my village in the weeks after that game.My dating life improved immensely and I was now household name. I felt a little bit guilty, but I figured that as the scrawniest kid in school, I had paid my dues for being an easy target for bullies. Thank God, there was no TV coverage or cellphone videos at the time, since replays would have exposed my hero status as a farce. Even though I never played another competitive match again, I will never forget the moment when I stepped up for all the wrong reasons, and ended up a hero for all the right reasons.

    Moral of the story? I don’t know, you decide. Fake it till you make it?


    Last edited by writersblock; January 19th, 2019 at 08:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Superb read...light and open writing that I found easy to read from beginning to end...the end was a delight and made me laugh...a short stand alone piece...
    The only one who can heal you is you.




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