My Son Failed By An Inch: Chapter 7

You Grew Bigger Than I’d Thought Son!

“Here is the team and a noticeable change being Santo replaced by Roque Alvarez as Santo was found to have failed the fitness test conducted yesterday. There have been a few rumors passing the ears claiming he fell out with the coach in build up to this game. However Mark, having 50 plus caps to his name, it is a matter of time he sorts his stuff.”
“Yes Andy, he is a class player and just too good to be ignored. He might make it to the game against Tottenham in a week and the fans want him back too. Those posters there confirm that.”

Appearances: 52
Goals: 48
Assists: 28
Titles: La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, Copa Del Rey

These statistics of Santo have certainly won him a crowd to support him. Watching him in the all white strip was a beautiful experience, a cathartic and proud one too. I couldn’t afford to miss a second while he’s on the field. Today was different. I no longer wanted to watch the match and switched off the TV. I was waiting for the match to conclude and call Santo to learn what went wrong in the tests and his situation with the coach. I tried reaching him through Liusio but learnt that Santo had no time for me. However, Liusio told me that he was found very weak and his blood pressure was too less to be considered for the match. He also confirmed the cold situation with his coach Jans Larcruff. So I decided to call Larcruff and discuss Santo’s situation.
“Hello Sir. Pleasure talking to you” said Jans in a warm tone.
“Hello Mr. Larcruff. Finally, I get to talk to you. How is Santo doing? ”
“Better that the papers have it. He’s recovering and is in my plans for the next week’s away game.”
“Glad to know. But is he happy out there? I doubt so?”
“That’s not my concern sir. I am here to plan what my players do on the field. Not off it. But if they think their records speak better than my tactics, I have no choice but to ignore them.”
“I will speak to him about that. But I request your patience and support Mr. Larcruff. After all, he’s still an important name for the club”
“Of course sir. You have my word.”
That night, I booked a flight to Madrid and called Santo to tell him I was coming. He told he would pick me up at the airport.

Madrid - Barajas Airport
I landed in Madrid and I found my way to Santo. I was extremely happy to see him and appreciated his progress. He changed a lot. His car got bigger, his hair got longer and smile, that became shorter. He was starting to deal with stardom in his own way. Something I never thought of as a youngster. My mind was on the goal. Be it in my bedroom or the prayer hall. Wish I could tell Santo the same. But he’s grown. He would not take it with empty ears and open mind.
“Why all of a sudden father?”
“I expected a how are you.”
“We speak regularly. So it wouldn’t make sense. How’s mother?”
“She’s fine. Thought I’d see you. It’s been a while.”
An unusual silence followed and buried the conversation, packing my lips and purging all those thoughts I wanted to share. ‘We’ needed time to settle?

The next day, Santo stayed with me as he took a day off from training at my request. He showed me his trophies and awards that embellished his brief career so far. We spoke about his progress and some technical issues he desired to address. After all the time, I told him
“Son, the harder you work, the easier things get. The easier you go on work, the harder things get. Avoid any and every kind of deviations at this stage of your career for this is the defining part.”
“What makes you think I go easy at my work? I have always put my best!”
“I did not say that son. Besides, there’s always more you can give.”
“Please father, I don’t want anyone commenting on my efforts! I know what brought you here. You called the coach. That’s a caring gesture but I can handle my stuff. I will work things out with the jaffer. Don’t you worry.”
“No son, I am not worried. I am happy at your position and want you to get higher. Someplace I couldn’t get.”
“Sure father. I’ll give it my best shot.”
“And son, alw…” Santo cuts me short.
“Always remember. There are certain gospels of the Real Madrid culture I need to maintain. If I respect them, they will earn me the faith of Real Madrid. Fame shall definitely follow. I know. I am a part of the culture now.”
“Good son. You seemed to have picked up fast. I’ll leave as a happy man. Do make your country proud.”
“Yes father!”
“We’ve reached the airport? So fast?”
“This car can hit 200 mph. That is fast, isn’t it?”
“Santo, be safe and healthy. That is the best you can give me and yourself. Goodbye”
“Goodbye father! Love to Mom!”
I wore an oblivious look which kept reflecting the insecurity that blanketed my thoughts ever since his mother’s demise. As I gazed past the red sky that broke at dusk and entered the airport, Santo speeded away into the hazy evening. I doubt if he still is that free spirit whom I met for the first time and who ran into the meadows on his bare feet with a wide smile that seemed to melt all the discomfort and pain he had to endure and then it struck me “You are thinking too much for a 70 year old. Get some rest!”

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