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Chapter: 18


Sunday morning. 

As soon as I opened my eyes, I felt like my body was broken. 

If you are an athlete then you will definitely have a day like this once in a while – a day when you feel like you can’t do anything. 

"… damn it." 

Today was such a day for me. 

It was the day of the league’s 15th match, Las Palmas against Alcorcón. 

I had to jog and warm-up for the afternoon game, but I didn’t want to get up. 

A bed bought from a furniture store two blocks away seems to have become a coffin that fits into my grave. 

I wish I could sleep more. 

The mind is as clear as a fresh bucket of water. 

As I lay blankly, buried under a blanket, I heard a sound from the living room. 

My dad has started to prepare breakfast.

It’s already past seven o’clock. 

I tried to force myself to get up. 

I got up from the bed, opened the door, and came out. 

Even if I can’t cook, I should at least help to try to open the lid of the side dish. 

"Are you up?" 

"Yes. Are you making curry?" 

"Oh. It’s taste’s good to eat for breakfast."

The sound of the kitchen knife hitting the cutting board seems to say that today is my memorial day. 

Even trivial things that were normally nothing have become uncomfortable and unpleasant. 

I took out the side dishes from the refrigerator and placed spoons and chopsticks on the table. 

"How’s your condition today?" 

"Well, it’s a little bad." 

"Little bad? That’s a big deal." 

Dad’s face is getting worse. 

I shouldn’t have told him honestly, but I wasn’t relaxed enough to take care of my dad’s feelings. 

Should I tell Manager Pepe that I’ll sit on the bench? 

From what I felt, even if situations are different, human emotions are similar. 

There is nothing more foolish than a promising player who has just started, talking about not being able to play. 

Even if the Manager is okay, I can’t say that. 

"But it’s something that usually happens, so I’ll be fine." 

"Good. Let’s eat. Hurry up." 

I put curry and stir-fried eggplant into my mouth. 

Then I took a carbohydrate bar as a snack and left the house with my dad. 

"Buenos días!" 

"Que pases un buen día." 

I greet the lady next door and go down the stairs. 

My body screamed nonstop until the moment I got into the eight-year-old used car. 

I should skip the workout today. 

Tourists walk around the entrance of a narrow alley with a large bag on their back, while palm trees and bulging rocks are stuck between the roads. 

The scenery reflected from the car window felt ominous. 

"Do your best today! You can do it!" 

"Yes, Dad. Thank you. See you later." 

Las Palmas fans came running with uniforms as I got out of the car with a smile that I didn’t want to put on my face and said thank you. 

Even taking pictures with fans and managing my facial expressions is difficult. 

I got inside as fast as I could and headed to the locker room. When I looked back at the sound of someone calling my name, it was Castro, who approached me with a smile on his face. 

"Are you feeling better? Aitami was worried." 

"I’m not worried about Aitami." 

"Hahaha, that’s true. Let’s say I worry. You trained late yesterday, how are you feeling?" 

"…not bad." 

"Are you going to do a hat trick again today? Give me a pass." 

Castro plays coy as if he thought we had gotten a little closer. 

As he said, I thought I might have to pass a lot today. 

"Okay, I’ll pass." 

"Really? Promise?" 

"Yes," 

Castro grabbed other players in the locker room and spread rumors around saying that I would assist him. 

As expected, the snout is the source of all evil. 

I’ll just shut that damn mouth permanently one day. 

Prior to the game, the team focused on training according to the coaches’ lead. 

It was an afternoon match, so I had to start warming up in the morning. 

We gathered in a circle and relaxed the muscles of the body in order. 

Certainly, the condition got better than it was in the morning, but the uncomfortable feeling still remains. 

"Kim, your face is scary today." 

"Well, it’s because I’m focused." 

"I thought it was due to the lunch menu." 

Dani Casteyano’s useless voice got filtered out in my ear and I focused on the detailed movements of my muscles. 

I had to prepare as much as I could before the game started.

November 10, 2019, 18:30 Estadio Gran Canaria. 

Ahead of the kickoff, the players who were warming up on the ground returned to the locker room. 

Manager Pepe brought a blackboard and set it in the middle of the locker room. 

4-2-3-1. 

Manager Pepe’s usual two midfielder style. 

What has changed is that I have entered the offensive midfielder position and Descartes has entered the front-line striker position. 

"Today on the starting list. First, defense. From the left, Bella, David, Aitami, Courbelo. I paid a lot of attention to coordinating the defense. Aitami and David haven’t been on the same page a lot." 

"Okay." 

"The two central midfielders are Harvey Casteyano and Inigo, and today we’re going to raise a lot of lines, so we need to be mindful of the gap between the defense and your mark first. You got it?" 

"Yes, Sir." 

"Narváez on the left-wing forward, Cedris on the right, Narváez plays center-oriented, so Cedris doesn’t have to move into the side. You can change positions, or you can both dribble into the center. Move according to the situation." 

Every time I hear this I feel that Manager Pepe loved transformative tactics. 

In a good way, it seemed like a transformation tactic and in a bad way, it seemed like momentary tinkering. 

But would it be a good choice for David to come out as a replacement for Lemos? 

Manager Pepe seems to have completely lost faith in Mantovani. He has received cards in every game, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s any kind of threatening defender like him. 

"Kim is a central attacking midfielder in tactics, but you can actually think of yourself as a free-roll. You can move flexibly with Narvaez or Cedris. If you think you have an opportunity on the attack, come up to the box and move in one-two or solo. Well, What I mean is take care of yourself. Do you understand?" 

"Yes." 

"Let’s get this over with and go home. Go score a goal." 

When the last tactical instruction was over ahead of the start of the game, the players exchanged jokes with Head coach Rios and burst into laughter. 

It was a formality to relieve tension. 

Manager Pepe’s confusing instructions echoed in my head. 

It’s been a while since I started focusing on tactical training after receiving counseling, and now I was openly given a free roll. If I was in good shape, it wouldn’t have been a problem. 

"Kim, your face has been stiff since morning." 

"It’s no big deal." 

"Are you in bad condition?" 

Other players would have ignored it, but he didn’t, I wonder if I should just confess to Inigo’s question, who looked like a model student. 

"Or are you like this because it’s not your original position?" 

"…both." 

"Both? It’s a little more serious than I thought." 

"I don’t feel well." 

"Well, then just do what you can. How can you be in good condition every time? You can’t keep your best condition throughout the league. I feel comfortable when I go in thinking that I’m just doing the basics." 

"Yeah, thank you." 

"What’s wrong with the position? What are you worried about?" 

"It’s my first time moving in an attacking midfielder position. If I were to make a mistake, the game would be ruined in the defensive situation." 

Inigo was lost in thought for a moment and then soon grinned bitterly at me. 

"You damn little thing. Do you think your team will collapse if you leave the defense alone? You shouldn’t say something like that just because you are popular these days." 

"No, I didn’t mean to say that." 

"Haha, it sounds like you’re saying that you can’t trust the defense. If I had told Castro this then I’m sure it would have gone to Atami’s ear. He will be mad if he heard you talk about this around, won’t he?" 

I chose silence instead of answering. 

I thought my pride would be hurt no matter which way I answered. 

"Okay, I won’t tell him. You just do your job — Attacking. Isn’t that what you’re good at? You don’t have to think about the defense since there are seven people behind you. If you have time left, you can come behind and help us."

"What are you talking about? "

Castro entered the room as we were talking. 

"Oh, Kim wants to do a hat trick again today." 

"Really? He promised to assist me though." 

"Castro, you are not a striker." 

Inigo giggles at Castro’s speechless expression. 

I was slightly satisfied that he blocked Castro’s words with the right response. 

"If you’re ready now, let’s get out." 

"Let’s go!"

The stadium, which was only half full last time, is full of people. 

A small number of Alcorcón supporters screamed at the top of their voices even before the game began, but Las Palmas fans seemed to have no time to care about it. 

We stood in a row on the grass and shook hands with the Alcorcón players. 

It didn’t feel real when I saw them in the video, but the four-back defenders were really very tall. 

Suddenly, I wondered if Manager Pepe gave me a free roll because of this. 

The game began with the kick-off of Las Palmas with a beeping sound. 

Pecardt pushed the short ball straight to central midfielder Inigo. 

Pecardt’s forward ball missed Inigo’s head, and the tall Alcorcón central defender won the race and got possession of the ball. 

The opponent’s right fullback received the ball. 

Las Palma’s defense checked their respective positions and pulled up the defensive line. 

Left-wing forward Narvaez actively tries to press forward in line with the defense’s movements.

Inigo picked up the ball from Alcorcon’s defender and hurriedly kicked.

"Kim!" 

As I was moving between Alcorcon’s back and midfield, Inigo’s ground pass came in. 

I was going to catch it with the inside of my foot at once, but two or three more touches were needed. 

It was a moment when recalled the fact that my condition was f*cked up, once again. 

There’s no time for swearing inwardly. 

In addition, because of the touch, the distance from the opposing midfielders was also decreased in an instant. 

"Ah…."

An exclamation bursts out of my mouth. 

Because I had to touch the ball a few more times so I couldn’t look around beforehand, and I couldn’t see the path to make a pass. 

I can’t give it back to Inigo. 

Alcorcon’s midfielders have been narrowing the space by intelligently blocking the pass path. 

Can I get over it? 

Two from each side came at me at the same time, while one from our camp. 

Even the task of turning the body in the direction of the goal is not possible due to the narrow space between the opponents. 

How long has it been since the game started? 

I give up on breakthroughs. 

In my current condition, It seems better to wait for the Las Palmas players to approach my sight. 

As long as I don’t lose it, while just holding on to it and I will be able to do something 

It was an irresponsible thought. 

The two opposing midfielders rushed toward me in an instant. 

I tried to hold on to the ball by leaning to the side to avoid getting pushed straight ahead, but also pushed a few steps back with the ball. 

Again, it is impossible to endure the attack purely by force. 

Alcorcon’s attacking midfielder approached from the front and I twisted my upper body back and forth as I rolled the ball in my feet to buy time before he could stretch his feet to complete a cooperative defense. 

Four people cling together at a very close distance where we can hear each other’s breathing clearly. 

While keeping on moving the ball and reaching out my right hand to push out anything that caught in my hand. 

I somehow temporarily managed to stop Alcorcon’s attacking midfielder. 

It’s been a few seconds since the match started, and my breath is getting rough already. 

It felt like a mosquito was sucking my stamina. 

In an instant, the right hand that pushed the opposing attacking midfielder bounced off, and one foot in black soccer boots came in towards the ball. 

As a temporary measure, I used the sole of my right foot to send the soccer ball to the heel of my left foot. 

I managed to avoid the opponent’s feet well, but at the same time, I noticed a contraction in the thigh muscles of the Alcorcon midfielder, who was standing next to me. 

Opponents ganged up and tried to tackle me. 

I couldn’t see it with my own eyes, but I could feel it. 

The index toe of my right foot tucked under the ball and brought back the ball in front of my body. 

The Opponent’s attack landed where my right foot was originally located. So it was best to let the ball float in the air with the insteps and take it. 

The left foot turns inside the ball and the right foot comes back with the ball on it.  

Before the ball was pulled up, the instep went out of control, so I turned my ankle wide and dropped it in the left direction.

I wanted to move out, but I turned around and held on. 

It was clear to me that they are going to try to pull the uniform from behind. 

I can’t stay long in one place between three people. 

I had to make a quick decision before I could run again. 

Is it best to induce a foul as soon as the uniform is pulled?

However, I cannot decide whether the referee will blow a foul card or not. 

I had to keep going in the direction while keeping the ball. 

The yellow jersey of Las Palmas is still not visible on my sight. 

Maybe it’s because I’m not feeling well or my vision is blurry, I can’t tell if they are really coming or not. 

Alcorcon’s attacking midfielder stood up. 

He regained the balance of his body that he lost during the tackle. 

He will come back soon and I didn’t have much energy to spare. 

The uniform on the left shoulder is stretched longer. 

The pulling force is stronger. 

The opposing midfielder on the left prepares to accelerate to prevent me from falling to the side. 

The other midfielder, who pulls the uniform from the waist, moves slowly. 

Seeing the force that pulls the uniform is still there, it seems like a move to make me not move after his fellow players. 

Something flashed in my head, and soon I decided to dig between the two midfielders. 

First, I have to deceive them using my upper body as if I was going to accelerate. 

As soon as the faint was put in, the defender on the left, as if he knew what would happen, hit the ground sharply in the direction of the side.

Before he could even react, I moved the ball to the left foot and twisted my upper body greatly. 

It was more important to shake off the hand that was holding the jersey, preventing me from turning. 

When I turned the upper body completely, the surrounding environment came into my view clearly. 

The opposing midfielder who deviated to the side was caught in the reverse motion and stopped in place, and the offensive midfielder who tried to follow me also lost the defensive position. 

Now, there is only one left, the midfielder who grabbed my waist from behind, who was located left to the front of the goal. 

Alcorcon’s midfielder stretched his left leg a little as soon as the hand holding the jersey’s waist was released and he made a standing tackle trying to close the gap. 

But the gap between us was too large to be caught by a sloppy tackle. 

From the inside of the left foot, then again to the right foot.

The opponent’s leg entered the spot where the soccer ball previously was. 

Obviously, I wasn’t in good shape to score a goal, and I was just trying not to lose the ball. 

Still, I felt a little strange. 

As the path opened in front of me, I could finally see the defenders lined up in a line in front of the goal.

TRIVIA

Free Roll

The most complete and versatile playmakers are often known as advanced playmakers, or free-role playmakers, as they can operate both in central, attacking midfield positions, and in wider positions on the wings.


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