Five kids swarmed on my ball. I didn’t even see where they came from. Honestly. They just appeared, and at first, it appeared like they were going to steal my ball. It became an instant frenzy, filled with juggling and dribbling exhibitions, diving goalie saves, shoving and tackling, the full circus. You name it, these five kids were doing it. And they were doing it with my ball. My ball.
I didn’t know what to think, so I didn’t say one word. Didn’t look any of them fuckers in the eye either. I paid them no attention whatsoever, and walked right into the ocean to cool off. I stayed in the water three minutes. Goals were being set up. Perhaps sides were being drawn. There was still an electric ball frenzy happening right on shore, and right in front of my eye. It was almost like they had never seen a soccer ball, which in the end, couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I came out of the sea and the fast talking began. The teasing too. Who knows exactly what they were saying. I could tell it was something like, “Who gets the old, bird legged, white man. It was obvious. Good stuff. Fair Play. They were obviously too young to know that they were adding gasoline to a fire. A fire that was about to spread. Duh.
This was to be no meet and greet pre-game warmup either. I wasn’t going to know any of their names, where they lived, or their exact ages. They had taken over like a swarm of bees. It was the weirdest thing that I had going at the moment. It was the only thing I had going at the moment. What would you have done? These are moments in life that won’t ever become dreams. You can’t dream this shit up.
So I whistled for the ball. They passed it to me. I picked it up and said, “Sorry fellas, Not today…Maybe tomorrow.” NOT!
I didn’t have to tell any of these kids to wait while I found a place for my wallet, or Ipod, or camera, or sunglasses, or any other Gringo accoutrement I might have been schlepping around. I was in trunks. I was tranquilo. I was present, and I was all in.
They kept laughing and being hyper. They were excited no doubt. Remember, 10 minutes prior, they were five kids on the beach without a ball. I brought the goods. Question is…Was I going to “bring the goods?” I kept having to say, Me tiene no cuidado in response to whatever they were asking. They were talking very fast. All of them at once. I figured they wanted my input about something, and like I said, I didn’t care.
Instantly it was on, and I had the two young kids. I knew that was coming. The three older boys made up the other team. I had all the older boys pegged at 16-17 years, mas o menos. The two younger kids were both 11 or 12. I’m sure they were all related in some form or fashion. Nobody had shirts on.
The field was 25 meters in length, and was on the first tier of medium tall sand. The goal posts were maybe five feet apart. They were sand volcanoes with sticks sticking up.
I’m of belief that ball skills in the tall sand take a lifetime of work to master. The older boys were considerably fancier with the ball than I was. But that’s all they were. Fancier. And due to their age, and in general, they had their way with the 12 year olds when push came to shove. They began the game off by just dominating us.
A HUGE part of beach soccer is 50/50 balls, and although my two teammates were just the kind of gritty kids I’d want on any of my sports team, I determined that they were only going to win about 15% of those 50/50’s. They just weren’t big enough yet. It became real clear, real quick, that I was going to have to rely on my strength and my condition, before any of my ball skills. Sort of a blessing actually. So that’s what I did.
When it became clear to me that there was more at stake for my two 12 y/o teammates than Peyton or Drew ever had to experience, I was ready to pinch myself. I had no choice but to put my stamp on this game in all the most experienced ways. They muscled off the 12 year olds, and I muscled over the teenagers. When my boys began to see me really digging in, they began to believe.
The games details would bore you to death. I’m not too clear about them anyway.(There’s been a 5.7 Mag earthquake here in Puerto Escondido since this game took place.) I just know that I muscled it. I dished it. I forced it. I high-fived it. I earned it. I inflicted myself on this three-aside like these boys hadn’t anticipated.
From the goal line,(what line?) in what turned out to be the final play of the game, when I crisply,(finally) dished the ball backwards to one of my oncoming 12 year olds, and he cleanly cracked it one touch for a nice goal, it marked a very magical moment in time. I gave the kid the index finger. He was ecstatic and in disbelief. I could totally tell. This kid might have just scored the best goal of his entire life, and it seemed like he scored it against just the right band of brothers. He turned to see if his squid fisherman father had seen it. He had.
The sun was setting. I was on the breakfast plate. Big fucking efforts. Soaked in sweat, I went in the ocean. I could have gone more, really truly, but they called the game. Hmmmmm. They set the ball down in the sand and made sure that I was aware of that. I said Gracias. They said Gracias. Had there been a scorekeeper, my guess is 12-10, them. I wasn’t keeping score.
With a freshly sprained big toe, I walked home barefoot. Glorious Stuff.
Come Visit Puerto Escondido.