One Game Wonder
February 03, 2013

Remember that “Ambition” form we had in the primary school report card? The one the teachers had put in to 1) identify our interests in paving a career path and 2) laugh at in the teacher’s room. Every year, I wanted to put the same profession: footballer. I wasn’t born a gifted mutant or ever got bitten by a radioactive spider, so becoming a footballer seemed the most realistic target closest to my truly desired ambition, a superhero.

Throughout the six years however, the only time I’d actually penned down “footballer” was in Standard 3. The school team was a player short during practice one afternoon and I was fortuitously on the sideline, fresh from stealing a gulp from the team’s water cooler. So the coach called me up, played me at right back and miraculously, I played the part well that day. After practice, from waterboy, I became the school team’s second choice right back.

The coolest part about being in the school team is when you’re excused from classes during game day. I would walk up to the teacher, hand her the slip, and slowly walk away carrying my duffel bag with a grin. I’d pace myself just enough for someone to ask where I’m headed and answer, “Oh I’ve got a game today,” right before stepping out of the classroom. This would usually make my classmates jealous and hate me at the same time. Which was kind of what I wanted.

Being 9 and the youngest in a team comprising of 10 – 12 year-olds though, it was hard for me to not be in love with myself. It felt good to be able to hang out with the older guys. During training and on the bus, they would pick on me for being the kid of the pack. I felt ostracized somewhat, but this was the good kind... I was one of them. Heck I was even having recess with the big boys.

On the pitch however, things weren’t shaping up according to plan. I couldn’t keep up with the arduous task of marking bigger, taller and tougher opponents. I was consistently outrun, my tackles mistimed, and my passes going awry. The true colors of my footballing ability, or disability, were beginning to show. The coach shouldn’t have called up the waterboy. It was the beginning of the demise of my footballing career, at the age of 9 1/2.

After only three games, from being a squad member, I was relegated to a back-up player -- who would only be called up when needed. It was basically just a nice way of dismissing me. No more skipping classes, no more bragging. The big break I thought I had, is now broken.

Reminiscing this period of my life reminded me of how much I actually believed at the time that I would be a professional football player someday. Of course, as I grew older (and wider), I soon realized that I was just at the right place at the right time. It was pure luck and though it went nowhere, I enjoyed the run. It’s a life chapter that I hold dear and wish to impart to my own son one day, in the form of the following words,

“If you’re not good enough, be the waterboy when they’re one player short.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
Published Travels
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Malaysia License.