I feel calm as I pull the top over my head for the first time. It was only a month ago that I trialled for Birmingham City and made their development squad, and yet now I’m preparing for my first team debut in Croydon, against the league leaders Trojans. Things have happened in a blur but when I think of the work I’ve been putting in – the gym sessions, practising every day outside of training, my new diet – it doesn’t seem unreasonable that I’ve made it here. I’ve earned it.
I walk out of the changing room just as Vix emerges from the women’s across the way, and we enter the hall hand in hand. The small crowd has been bolstered by several of our old teammates, here to see me and Vix represent BCKC together. Her rise has been just as rapid as mine – she started coming to the gym with me when we began dating and it’s done wonders for her game.
People are talking about us as a new korfball power couple and as the match begins we justify that tag, combining for the first six goals. We know each other’s movement perfectly and wow the crowd, and the opposition, with a flurry of no-look passes we’d practised the week before. After one such display in the second half, Tony, the England international marking me, calls a substitution for himself and stalks off into the changing rooms. His replacement doesn’t fair much better and BCKC run out 26-14 winners.
Vix is the toast of the team after nine goals, including four penalties. It’s unheard of for such a new player to take penalties, but we practise all the time and Vix has yet to miss one in a month of training; she buried her four confidently. Tony seeks me out after the match, coming into the men’s away team dressing room, and informs me of his retirement. Being run ragged by my no-look passes was the final straw, apparently. He tells me I’m the future of the sport, and that he expects several of his international teammates to make way as well for ‘the new wave of talent’. I shake his hand and say it was a honour to play him. He asks about a cut just below my knuckles, which I’ve had for months now. ‘A hiking accident, I think,’ I tell him, and can’t remember myself. He laughs and tells me not to risk damaging my ‘golden hands’ as he walks out.
While Vix and I enjoy the limelight, I know that the real key to the victory was our teammate Charlie, an England star who kept Trojans’ best defensive players occupied while ‘the power couple’ worked our magic. I haven’t had a chance to congratulate him on a job well done but spot him just outside the venue, heading to the pub with a few Trojans players he knows from the international team.
“Charlie!” I call, just as they’re crossing the road. Everyone turns, still walking, and several recognise me and gesture I should join them. I jog to catch up as the horn blares, and a lorry slams into the group right in front of my eyes.
[to be continued]
[I’d like to dedicate this post to my sister Emily, who requested I resurrect this story when I met up with her last week, and who is still confused as to why the leprechaun bit Harry]