For the Love of the Game (5)
By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa
Weeks have turned to months and the centenary celebration for the Cranes Football Club is drawing near. There is a celebration tonight at the club village, this because of their recent win against another country giant, Badimo FC. They beat them 6-0 in the Battle Knockout, the country’s toughest competition. The team was nervous approaching this competition without their star striker, The Bullet, but they pulled it off. This is scaring Njabulo a little. The club making it without him means he might not be needed in the near future. He has been putting more work on his recovery in an attempt to get back to the game. The club doctors say it’s looking good and he may be able to play in two weeks or so. The club management invited Sibongile to the party. She couldn’t decline this invite, she desperately wants to make a good impression with the club bosses. For some courage she invited Zitha and she was only glad to come.
Zitha is hitting it off with a bunch of players while Sibongile is talking business with the team manager, Christopher. Christopher’s grandfather founded the club, which is now run by him and his father. Cranes FC is a family legacy that every generation has to preserve. Christopher tells Sibongile how happy he is with the book idea. “Finally our history and hard work will be documented for generations to come.” He says.
Njabulo joins them as Sibongile asks; “So which one is your name anyway, James or Christopher?”
Njabulo laughs displaying his ‘I-Told-You’ smug.
“My surname is Poo. But walking around with that surname is hard work, everyone expects miracles from you. It’s bad enough that I have to manage the team but carrying the surname, heck that’s too much. So I just go by my names, no pressure.” Christopher explains.
Sibongile nods. She realizes that Njabulo is holding a plate with hake and rice. Confused, she asks; “Why are you eating fish in a braai?”
“I’m an ambassador for The Breeze” Njabulo answers pulling a silly frown.
Christopher; “He also doesn’t eat beef”
Sibongile exclaims. This is the first she hears that a black man doesn’t eat red meat.
“And then he calls himself a man.” Christopher adds jokingly.
Njabulo shrugs and continues with his meal. He is used to his teammates teasing him about his beef allergy and it doesn’t bother him anymore. Christopher excuses himself leaving Njabulo with Sibongile. Their small talk is interrupted by Tee, Njabulo’s teammate asking Sibongile for a dance. Njabulo ridicules his request saying Sibongile cannot dance to save her life. To prove him wrong, and not disappoint Tee, she agrees. Tee is a famous dancer in the team. All celebrations are led by him with his extraordinary dance moves. Sibongile is not intimidated, she knows she is a good dancer. She just prefers to hide it and be this stiff, unsocial person. She realises that her mask will soon fall. She can’t be hostile with this team, not when they are holding her future in their hands.
They hit the dance floor and wow everybody. People eventually stop what they are doing and watch the pair dancing their hearts out. Slowly more people join them and the house erupts into many crazy dance routines. Njabulo can do a lot of things but dancing isn’t one of them. He knows this and doesn’t even bother trying. A handful of them remain seated while everybody else dances up a storm. Sibongile gets tired and throws herself on a couch next to a player named Kevin, one of the most quiet people in the room (if not the only one). Sibongile thinks it’s safe to sit next to him, to take a break from all the socializing, and is disappointed when Kevin speaks to her.
“Your person will be jealous and angry when he sees you here with me.”
“I know you’re sleeping with him.” Kevin says with confidence.
Sibongile clicks her tongue before responding; “So one dance will Tee and I’m sleeping with him? You crazy?”
“We’re not fools, you and Njabulo are…”
“A minute please Sibo” the conversation is saved by the Christopher’s humble request. A second later Sibongile would’ve been red with fury.
“Don’t let them get to you.” Christopher says to her as they walk away from the crowd. As soon as they reach a quiet spot by the pool he gets straight to business. “With the centenary celebration coming up, our PR team is under strain and we need extra hands. We can waste more time by advertising the post and going through the trouble of interviews just to hire one person, or we can hire you and you start immediately. You’re a qualified journalist right?”
Sibongile is frozen. She cannot believe what just happened to her, did she just get her dream job? This can’t be happening.
“Should we draw up your contact?” Christopher asks with a wide smile.
“Yes! Gosh! Wow!” Sibongile unintentionally shouts. She holds her mouth with her right hand quickly but a couple of giggles escape her.
“Don’t be shy, you’re allowed to be happy. Now go celebrate with your peers. Coach and I are leaving now, it’s bed time for the oldies. Congratulations on the new job.” With this Christopher walks away.
Sibongile is awestruck. She is bouncing like a yoyo when Zitha comes to ask what’s wrong. Upon hearing the news, Zitha offers Sibongile a celebratory drink and she accepts. Getting drunk to celebrate both her dreams coming true at the same time seems to be a good enough reason. So the party really begins…