The Ball's Gotta Move

The Ball’s Gotta Move: Chapter Three

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Note: Josh Trott’s multi-part fictional Philadelphia soccer story continues with Chapter Three. New chapters will run on Mondays and Fridays. All the characters, soccer clubs, and schools in the story are fictional.

The next day we had another cool one, and I biked over to Penn Fields again. Of course, it’s the same kids, same game, and they all look at me like I’m a dead fish or something. So I say, “I’m back.”

Jefe walks over. Ball is stopped under some kid’s foot. He says, “Yo, you gonna play, you don’t throw punches or go in crazy on tackles. You do, I’ll kick your ass myself.”

I said, “Ain’t nobody gone kick my ass.”

He said, “Watch.” Then he looked me dead in the eye, like he thinks he a true gangster or something. “Go on that side.”

The other time he was on my team. This time he was on the other side. Honestly, like he was big, and built brickwise, and I didn’t want to see if he really could mess me up — but to put him in his place, my mindset was I was going to beat him on the dribble like twenty times and then he wouldn’t be talking all that shit.

Well, I ran at him once and pushed it out toward the right and then pulled it back hard. Except it didn’t come. He had it under his feet and was going back up field, holding me off with the back of his arm, and then he bombed a switch. I bumped him, just to let him know I was there; he flashed this half smile, ignoring me.

The next time I swore to hit him with the Zidane, where you put the ball in front of you to one side then bring your far foot over the ball pulling it — like you’re just going to shield it — but instead you finish the spin, then you tap it with the back foot and accelerate in the direction you were originally going. This move works for me all the time. I use my elbows to clear space as I spin and I watch Zidane do it on YouTube and I know how to set the defender with the ball’s movement.

It’s easy to get a little space in pick up. There was this African kid, the same guy I had tried to punch last time, running to the side but I wasn’t looking to pass. I push the ball out and go into the spin. I come out of it with no ball. The Mexican hits the ball diagonal cross field onto somebody’s chest and turns to me. “He was open,” he says.

I really thought about punching him, but I just said, “You on the other team, why the freak you telling me what to do, illegal.”

He grabbed me out of nowhere. Hand around my throat, arm like a train, he picked me up and drove me into the turf. Like I may have lost some skin off my ass.

He said, “I was born here, you freaking butthole. And I just stopped you twice like nothing. And I love this game and don’t like to see someone mess it up. I’m giving some friendly advice, because I been playing longer than you: Pass the ball. That way it’s more fun. If I have to defend the two of you, you might get a goal. Probably not, but at least it will be a little bit of work for me.”

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He stood up and lifted me up. It was funny because if you told me about some kid slamming me on the Penn turf in front of everyone, I would have said that I would kick his ass. Or if, as was the case with the Mexican Hulk, if I knew I couldn’t beat him, I’d go get my bike and throw rocks at him, or try and steal his phone. But I didn’t. I felt calm. I wanted to play soccer. I even was okay with passing.

I started passing to the African kid, who had a nice touch. He would try and pass back after I fed him the ball a couple of times, but Jefe never lied. We couldn’t score. He’d slide across, force us to one angle, and then when we passed, he’d snag it and lay off a pass that usually went the entire length and width of the field. Dude was a defensive wall.

Someone said we should stop and then the ball came to me and this time I strode at Jefe before dropping the ball to Africa. Then I started up into Jefe’s blind space. When he jumped back I moved the other way, so I was about four yards back and Africa hit me, still moving hard to net. I faked the shot, chipping it up so Africa ran through to the ball and scored.

Jefe laughed.

I said, “You said I wouldn’t score.”

He said, “Good job, kid. What’s your name?”

“Junior. I mean, Jimmy. Call me Jimmy.”

He gave me his hand. It was hard. “Jefe.”

Most of the other kids walked with him. They were talking about the next season. I said, “Where you guys play?”

“The pub,” they said.

I looked confused.

“High school soccer.”

Now I’d been thinking about high school soccer myself. East Catholic was closed but I thought, maybe I can go to one of the Northeast Catholic schools. I talked about it with GG and my mom and they had said, “We’ll see.”

Then I heard them talking in the other room. It started kind of quiet but I could make out “Thousands of dollars” getting repeated. Then it got louder and my mom was saying something about scholarships. GG just laughed out loud, “Scholarship? The fights?”

I went up to my room. My room is real neat, got my desk with my charger folded up. Got my Vincent Nogueira poster and my Luis Suarez poster — they’re even with one another, same size — right about my bed. My bed is made too. Tucked in crisp, like a little matchbox. One thing Dad did teach me was how to make a bed.

Anyway, Jefe told me, “Me and some of these guys, we go to the International School Magnet. Mostly we call it TIS. We’re going to have an okay team this year.”

I said to him, “How do I get in?”

He said, “Apply. Here, write your full name down on this.”

He handed me a notebook. It had a lot of notes in like he was some scientist planning some shit. “You apply, maybe you get in, you can play soccer with me. Not like me, Jimmy, but with me. I see you later, nutty white boy.”

He walked off with some guys. You know, I’m going to sound light as crap but, really, I kind of liked him. I mean, I wanted to play on his team.

One Comment

  1. Nogs poster? Playing to PSP audience?
    Have to admit- for a reason I can’t put finger on- first chapter didn’t draw me into the story. But so far I like ch 2 and 3.
    Thank you for sharing, Josh.

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