It was the night, this is what 9 months of hard work, determination and more all lead up to, the final game of the season. I was on the bench as I always was. Deservedly so, I wasn’t very good at all, which is putting it mildly. Everyone knew I made the team to make sure my sister didn’t leave Portland to play for a different college.
I was used to it, she got the talent, the spotlights and the fame, meanwhile I was just there. I spend most my hours on the bench, analysing the game, which I actually did love. My analysis would go straight to my sister in order for her to get better. Like my mom would always say, every good striker, needs their younger sister. While she always said that to comfort me, to some extent it was true.
Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. Like I said, it was the night of the game. We would match up against North Carolina. North Carolina was simply said the best side there is, they had some incredible talented players in their line-up. I prepared better than ever before, watching hours upon hours of footage of North Carolina.
I would always look for weaknesses in the opponent's team and then tell my sister. It was a match made in heaven and I enjoyed, it made me feel needed.
The crowd was getting bigger and bigger, filled with some parents, some college kids and maybe even the occasional scout, not that that mattered, I wouldn’t play anyway.
We started quite decent, but lacked the final pass. It was a very encouraging start, which we kept going for at least 15 minutes. That was when it went downhill, North Carolina managed to get the upper hand, resulting in 2 quick goals to make it 2-0 after 25 minutes. They had us beat physically and tactically. The sheer dominance of North Carolina kept us pinned down. Frankly enough, we were happy it was just 3-0 going into the half-time break.
“We weren’t that poor, just keep playing the way you are, and goals will come” coach Franklin encouraged. I laughed it off, a bit too loud. An angry coach Franklin turned to me and screamed: “You have a better idea, LeFleur.” I stepped back, scared of his reaction. It went silent for 2-3 minutes until my sister encouraged me to speak up. “Actually I do, we keep giving space to their number 10, she gets the ball and runs through our defence like it’s nothing.” I suggested playing a different, a higher, defensive line, to limit the space between midfield and defence. While also playing a wider system, to exploit the width of the pitch.
Coach Franklin laughed it off, saying I have no tactical awareness and shouldn’t speak as I’m not good enough to. I sucked up his comments, not thinking too much about it. The second half started, we kept playing the same way as we used to, despite my comments. We were set up to fail.
5 minutes into the second half we were close to conceding a 4th, I tried convincing the coach one last time. Things got heated, I may have screamed some stuff I shouldn’t have, same goes for coach Franklin and I swear that I was hit by a water bottle as well. “Get off this pitch, you’re not worthy of this team, LeFleur.”
I went to the dressing room, picked up my car keys and went to the car. I took a drive to nowhere, listening to the radio to the inevitable loss of my sister. I wasn’t really paying attention for a good little while, until I heard something interesting, a substitute, an attacker off for a defender. The exact sub I suggested to coach Franklin.
It didn’t take long before it paid off. Just short of 70 minutes we scored a first, 3-1. Still, not interested in the game I started to get myself some food in a local diner. I ordered some food and was staring into the distance.
“Could you turn it up, please.” I heard from a man at the bar. “There’s Maddie LeFleur with her goal, it’s 3-2 now, can Portland still do it, 8 minutes remaining.” I looked up and moved my plate to the bar sitting next to the man. He noticed the fact I was wearing a kit and asked me about it, which lead to me, explaining the situation. In all honesty, at that moment I thought he was right, he did it, it’s 3-2 now and the momentum is on our side.
“LeFleur, LeFleur, LEFLEUR, it’s 3-3 in the dying seconds, Portland has done it.” At that point I should’ve been happy, I was happy for my sister, but I was mad, mad at myself, I shouldn’t have questioned coach Franklin. The final whistle blew and penaltys were going to be taken. Miss, Miss, Goal, Goal, Goal, Miss, Goal, Miss, Miss. 2-2, one final penalty for us. Ofcourse it was my sister to step up, she always had nerves of steel. “LeFleur coolly slots it home, Portland win!!!!!” I went back to the car and rushed to the car. I drove like a maniac to be at the field as fast as possible.
I arrived at the field and saw coach Franklin talking to a local news reporter. Ofcourse there were a lot of congratulations, but he was also asked what changed the game. He explained as calmly as he possibly could, what he changed and why he changed. I couldn’t perfectly catch what he said, but I understood enough, he took the glory of me. The one time I deserved to be in the spotlight, the one time, the chance was stolen. I dropped what was left of my drink went to the car, smashed a window and started crying.