She Scored A Goal
Nuri was excited. He had loved soccer forever, kicking a ball around in the dirt in Saudi Arabia when he was little. Usually he scored with his legs. There were defenders everywhere, but he knew, deep down, that he could get a head on this ball. Straining to keep his eyes on Maulid, he waited. As the ball arched toward him, he leaped, stretching to get as far into the air as he could, hoping a defender didn't knock him down. He wasn't as tall as Karim, but this was his chance. Turned away from the net, he felt the back of his head connect with the ball. Goal!
-- ONE GOAL, page 225
It finally looked like soccer weather. After weeks of a shockingly erratic spring, the sun was out, the fields were (relatively) dry, and the team, the Tigers, had been able to get several consecutive practice sessions in without torrential downpours and -- oh, yes -- snow interrupting their drills.
Sun, of course, can be fickle, hiding behind clouds, or taking a backseat to an increasingly chilly wind. The soccer fields are up high in New Rochelle. A balmy morning in my backyard still means I throw several layers into the trunk of the car before heading up to the game, where temperatures are always several degrees lower and winds seemingly come up from nothing.
She was playing left forward, which meant she was miles away from where we sat. Coaches and players on the far sideline. Parents on the near. We tended to sit closer to goal, as our team seems to play defense more often than not.
So we focused on her bright orange headband, which sat high on her forehead, keeping her ponytail at bay. The ball unexpectedly came to her off an opponent's shoulder, and after juggling for a second, taking a moment to find control, she launched a shot toward the net. I sat up, surprised. She was in an attacking mood, I thought. Not always the case.
The goalie fell on the ball, hugging it tight to her chest, and the Tigers regrouped, waiting for the restart. A bad punt and soon the ball was in front of our girl again, at a more severe angle this time. She's going to pass it back, I thought. She's too far over.
Instead, she sent a rocket just inside the left post, a ball that soared just off the ground and into the back of the net. From our vantage point, we hesitated to celebrate: did it go in, or was it an optical illusion. But then she turned, her arms stretched over her head, and a look of joy that devoured the space between us as her teammates ran to hug and high five, jogging back to positions with her smile as their center.
She scored a goal. And for that moment, there was no better feeling in the world.