For the Love of the Game (1)
By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa
“I can do this, I can do this, I got this!”
She chants to her reflection as she fixes her hair in front of a full length mirror. The hair is fine, so is everything else, but she’s so nervous she could change the whole outfit. She has never been this nervous before. Not when she started high school, not during her first year in varsity, not during graduation, not even during all those first times with male acquaintances. This day could make or break her career.
“If you don’t come now I’m leaving you!”
That’s her housemate Zitha, who is always on her case. Zitha continues shouting as she grabs her bag quickly and rushes out. “If you want a lift you should be on time…” Zitha pauses abruptly as soon as she sees her running towards her.
“What? Let’s go,” she say indifferently.
“Who are you meeting?”
She rolls her eyes and doesn’t respond. She has grown to know and appreciate Zitha’s craziness, nothing she says comes as a shock to her anymore.
“You look so hot, where are you going?”
“Because a writer can’t look hot?”
She shakes her head as they make their way out of the house.
“Who said writers don’t have any fashion sense? I’m not a fashionista but thanks to my naturally well-built body everything I put on looks brilliant.”
“Go on and brag, why don’t you?” Zitha giggles as they enter her car, which is in front of the main entrance with the engine running.
As soon as they enter Zitha’s car, her mind drifts to a more pressing issue: the mystery project. She hasn’t told any of her friends about this in fear of it not working out. She’s been communicating with Cranes Football Club in preparation for their centenary celebration. The minute she realized the club was founded in 1918 and will be turning 100 in 2018, she approached the club manager with the idea of writing a book. At first Mr. Christopher was shocked that a young woman like her had thought of it, and then he was reluctant to use her for the project. Being a determined young lady, she wouldn’t allow him, or anybody else, to take her idea –so he eventually agreed. So here she is; an aspiring author about to write a book about the life and times of one of the country’s most notorious football clubs.
“I’m leaving you at the café right?” Zitha asks after a period of silence.
She nods and fixes herself once more before getting off the car. Zitha shouts good luck and drives off. Zitha always supports her housemate despite her reserved personality, and she’s appreciated. ‘One day I’ll show her just how I’m grateful I am to her.’ she thinks as she runs inside the café.
The Cranes manager organized for one of the players to assist her with the project. He wouldn’t tell her which one and she’s silently hoping he sent a humble somebody, given how these soccer players can be. She slowly approaches a waitress and asks if she has seen any famous soccer player this morning.
With no hesitation the waitress responds; “The most arrogant person you’ll ever meet…Around the back with a huge smug.” With this the waitress walks away.
She takes a deep breath and starts walking towards the back of the café. She’s already guessing who it could be, contemplating the worse possible option. She looks up and there he is, impossible to miss, with his feet on the table and a ridiculous smirk on his face. She approaches the table quickly and forces a smile while trying to breathe normally.
“Njabulo Zulu…” she begins. He throws a two-second glance at her and looks back at his phone.
“I’m Sibongile Mkhize from–”
“Ah, sure, sit,” he interrupts without looking at her.
She stands for a while trying to gather all her self-control. A big part of her wants to turn back and walk away, the better part of her is telling her to grin and bear it, and there is that tiny part that feels like pouring coffee all over Njabulo’s face. This last thought amuses her enough to encourage her to sit.
“Hmmm your name again?” Njabulo says placing his phone on the table and facing Sibongile.
“I’m sure your manager briefed you about this meeting. Shall we begi–”
“He’s not my manager,” he interrupts again.
Sibongile is already irritated but she chooses to ignore his rudeness once again, for her own sanity. She takes out her notepad and recorder and places them on the table.
“I already know how the club was founded, and how Mr. Poo gathered the players from the townships. He–”
Njabulo interrupts; “Then why do you need me?”
Sibongile continues to scribble something in her notepad as she says; “Why did they send you anyway?”
“Third generation Zulu to star for the Cranes Football Club.”
“Oh the legacy!”
Sibongile rolls her eyes and it slips out; “Lord shoot me now!”