Glory and Guilt
Santo played in the right wing and was filling for a star player whose stamina was hit by the FIFA virus and got injured in an international friendly. I knew what it was like to set foot on the green pitch engulfed in an ocean of supporters, critics and detractors and while your ears are muted by shouts of praise and support. So far, he seemed to have put all this behind and managed to put on a fine display of passing and crossing. Then came his moment of truth. He slipped past one of the finest midfielders in the Valencia side and left the last defender for dead as he slid the ball past through to his attacker. The pass tore their defense as an incision knife through wounded flesh that left it bleeding. The honors were complete as Real scored the only goal of the game and Santo was substituted in injury time to eat up some valuable seconds much to the frustration of the opposing team.
I was elated as his entry and thanked heavens he did not disappoint all those who trusted him. For a moment, his performance gave me that all needed respite from the day’s mishaps. I was happy for his progress……and shattered at his loss.
He called me the next day asking if I saw the match. Before I could gather a few words to spell, he asked for his mother. I remained silent knowing not what to say. He probably seemed too occupied with the upcoming fixtures and told me that his coach has asked him to work on his fitness to stay fit for any and every assignment that came his way. He insisted on speaking to his mother but I brushed his request away by lying that she had gone to Jerusalem and wouldn’t be coming for a while. I assured him everything was taken care of and as usual, preached him and said goodbye. I managed to comfort him as he was happy his mother finally got to visit places. He must have slept with content whilst his mother’s blessings would have nourished his soul and revived his energy.
As the season progressed, Santo was starting to make it to the newspapers and sport journals as a very promising youngster who could treat the club’s fans with class and magic that the club’s idols never failed to produce, owing to which, the fans started to like him better. Soon, he started to play in the Champions League and was scoring heavily despite the fact that he was a winger. The glitterati status followed and he was living in a dream of cameras and sports cars. He bought himself a Porsche and was living in the costliest localities that were hubs for late night partying. He endorsed huge brands like Nike, Gatorade, Coca Cola and has done many commercials for them. Nike has named the most recent version of their football gear as “San10”, which Santo currents sports on the pitch. He had called me once to tell me about how his manager Pirri Gratisso, one of the best in business, got him the Nike endorsement. He also sent me a pair of San10 football studs. I was extremely elated at his rise but somehow, I could never connect to all this as we never had such things to do. All we did when we had space to breathe was to pack a picnic van and set out to the nearest beach or woods to rest in some beer and barbeque. Neither could I understand his taste nor could I make a decision for him. So I chose to stay silent and let him have his share of fun. Much to my surprise, he rarely spoke about his mother and the faster the time passed, the shorter her memory lived.