Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 25[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:22]
Chapter 25: Snake Tongue
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
1 : 0, Shu Guang was in the lead, but Sun Laihong did not react much to the score.
“Li Yongle, more shots!” he simply shouted from the technical area, finally saying something since the game began.
Li Yongle thought about the shooting technique he had been trying recently, but he had not mastered it yet. That was when he got a pat on his back.
It was Zhao Defeng. “It’s fine, just shoot.” He smiled. “Games can’t be won without shots.”
Zhongyuan restarted the game, with Zhao Defeng taking control of the ball up front; but he did not pass it in a hurry.
Li Yongle ran forward and as their eyes connected, Defeng made backheel pass and sent the ball just ahead of his partner. Li Yongle then took a shot from outside the box!
The ball hugged the ground as it roll towards the goal and An Ke dropped to the ground to collect it.
“It’s not like that…” Yongle muttered, shaking his head.
Defeng found him in a perfect position once again and while Li’s second shot did lift above the ground, it did not dip, so An Ke gathered it without much fuss again.
When Li Yongle tried for the third time and shot the ball straight into An Ke’s arms, even Sun Laihong was left shaking his head. “Was three days too much of a rush?” he mused.
The referee soon blew the whistle, signaling the end of the first half. Shu Guang led as they headed into the break!
Zhongyuan’s cheerleading team fell silent for the second time after Yang Pan scored. Not only was their team unable to take the advantage in the first half, they had never been overwhelmed in such a manner by any team in Luoyang.
“Well, regardless of whoever wins, no one would think of Shu Guang as a weak team again after this game,” Zhou Peng said, looking at the scoreboard which read 1 : 0.
The host team’s locker room.
“How’s everyone feeling now?” Liang Ke asked.
“Cool!” Yang Pan said as he wiped away pinches of sweat.
“Overwhelmed,” Su Li added. “My heart never calmed down after I heard our own cheerleaders’ voices as soon we stepped on the pitch.”
“That’s right! I can’t even recall how long it’s been since there was such a feeling,” Wang Bo said as he leaned on a chair with a towel on his face.
Liang Ke beamed.
“Then keep playing the way you guys did in the second half.”
The guest team’s locker room.
“So? How’s everybody feeling?” Sun Lai Hong looked at the players, all of whom were breathing hard.
“Shu Guang’s good,” Zhao Defeng answered. “Tough to handle.”
The others were quiet.
“Hey, hey! This is not the atmosphere a Zhongyuan locker room is supposed to have!” the coach said, clapping his hands. “How about this, Li Yongle and Zhang Yang, mark Yang Pan together and prevent him from having any chance to shoot. The defense line could also pull back a little, denying him any space to make runs. Liu Chao, how are things at your end?”
“No problem!” the Zhongyuan player gave a huge thumbs up.
“Li Yongle, keep shooting in the second half, understood?”
Li Yongle nodded.
“Alright! Our objective is to be crowned champions of the nationals! Assert your dominance in this game! Defeat them!”
Zhang Jun did not join the team meeting in the locker room; he was playing keepie uppie alone beside the pitch. He did not feel any pain even when he used both legs, so he thought that maybe he could ask Liang Ke to let him play in the second half.
That was when Li Yongle passed him by in the blink of an eye.
“Ah…” He wanted to utter a greeting.
The other stopped. “Are you coming on in the second half?
“Me? I don’t know…”
“You’re not running away are you? You’re running away from me!” Li pointed accusingly at him.
“Running? Hey! That challenge or whatever it is came from your own imagination! You leave every single time you finish what you have to say, not even waiting for my response!”
“I don’t care! Don’t regret it if you don’t play in the second half!” At that, Li Yongle turned and left.
“Hey… What am I gonna regret…”
In a huff Zhang Jun sat down, but he felt in the depths of this heart that Li Yongle was right―he could really come to regret it if he did not play in this match.
The second half began.
Zhongyuan maintained their defensive style, retreating even further back than they did in the first half.
“Zhongyuan is going to score.” Chen Huafeng heard a voice beside him. He turned to find a boy seated beside him, wearing a baseball cap and mumbling to himself; he thought the youth looked rather familiar, but could not conjure up a name right then.
“Lin Ling!” Zhou Peng called out.
The boy turned reflexively towards him.
“It is you!” Zhou said, looking quite please.
“Tut!”―Lin Ling tipped his cap upwards―”I’ve been found out!”
“Hehe! That’s because you’re a star!” Zhou smiled.
“You’re mistaken, they are the stars.” Lin gestured towards the two teams on the pitch.
“Aren’t third-years supposed to be busy right now?” Chen Huafeng pointed out.
“There’s supposed to be supplementary classes this afternoon, but I’m playing hooky.”
“Just to watch this game?”
“I was feeling a little out of practice too. This time last year, I was in the same position as them. Although I ended up in the stands today.”
“Still not going to concede defeat?”
“No! I’ve already conceded completely.” Lin Ling pressed his cap down and turned away; but Huafeng managed to get a glimpse of his expression. How should could one describe it? Perhaps, it was a pinch of desolation.
A clear ringing reclaimed Huafeng’s attention to the match.
Twenty-seven meters out, Yang Pan had managed to hit the woodwork with another shot; everyone could see that the goalpost was still swaying from its power.
“Such a powerful shot!” Lin uttered, feeling stunned.
“Have you just arrived? They’ve already scored one.” Chen pointed at the scoreboard.
“They’re leading?” Lin Ling was taken aback even further. “I’m not one to boast, but only Dingding and our Tong Xing team were the only ones in Luoyang who ever led against Zhongyuan!”
“He scored from nine meters out,” Chen Huafeng told him while he pointed at Yang Pan.
Lin Ling remembered the goalpost, which did not stop quaking. “Nine meters out? With this sort of power?”
“No wonder Zhang Lintao couldn’t keep it out. I bet there won’t be many who can do it in the high school scene either.”
“That’s right!” Huafeng exclaimed. “And it was almost as if he alone suppressed the entire Zhongyuan defense in the first half. Now their whole team is pressed even farther back; looks like they’re very much afraid of Yang Pan’s speed and shooting.”
“No! No!” Lin Ling waved it off. “Zhongyuan are retreating too far behind, it’s a sign that they’re preparing for a counter. They do it like snakes, holding back for the right moment before biting fiercely to deal a decisive blow against the enemy.”
What Lin said resounded. Perhaps, it was the two years experience of getting bit.
“Although the media dubbed them ‘kings’, they’re often nicknamed, ‘vile serpents’ by every team who’s played against them,” Zhou Peng added. “It wasn’t nice, so it never really caught on. However, it does appropriately describe their specialty: tough defense and decisive counter-attacks. And they do look positively serpentine when they go on counters.”
“Doesn’t that mean that Shu Guang is in danger?” The referee’s whistle rang as soon as Huafeng said that. Su Li had just brought Li Yongle down and Zhongyuan won a free kick on the left flank, just outside Shu Guang’s box.
“There’s their chance,” Lin Ling said.
He was feeling good today.
Zhao Defeng had not been helping with the runs out of habit. He lifted his foot and with a twisting motion, the ball swerved beautifully through the air and bypassed the Shu Guang wall as it flew unimpeded to the near corner!
When An Ke saw that the ball skirted around his team, it was already too late when he attempted to dive towards it.
It went in the net!
1 : 1! In the fifty-ninth minute, Zhongyuan equalized with a direct free kick from their captain, Zhao Defeng!
Their entire team exploded―they had been feeling dispirited for some time; now, they could finally vent.
In the raucous stadium, Lin Ling could only gasp softly. “Beautiful!” He had already seen many of Zhao Defeng’s free kicks, but he would repeat himself each time he did. Like Beckham’s free kicks, it was a waste of words to keep elaborating upon the exquisite curving lines and should just be enjoyed.
Shu Guang restarted the game, but Yang Pan was gradually feeling severe pressure as a pair of Zhongyuan defensive players focused their attention on him. Zhang Yang would viciously deliver sliding tackles while Li Yongle marked him closely as if he were Yang Pan’s shadow; It was a flawless partnership that was too much to handle!
As soon as he managed to pull an ankle break on Zhang Yang, Li Yongle would be there beside him; and when he accelerated to leave Li Yongle behind, Zhang Yang would then catch up to him. “The Chain!” he realized with a start.
“The Chain?” Su Fei stared at Zhang Jun.
“The Chain is an early Italian defensive tactical model. Whenever an attacker comes forward, two defenders will form a layered defense against him. If the first defender loses him, the second defender will step in and when the other loses out too, the first one will block him once more. It’s a defense that denies the other team’s player any space. Still, there have been cases of forwards who could push deep even in the face of such opposition, although they usually lose the ball after three rotations.”
“Yang Pan’s the heart of our team’s attack now. If he’s contained, our offense is contained; that’s the problem.” Zhang Jun bit his lip.
“There’s still Ren Yu De!”
“Ren Yu De is being held by their right back, it’s too hard for him to make a move…”
“They never joined their school team before high school?” Lin Ling asked.
“That’s right,” Zhou Peng replied. “The pair were infamous hoodlums back in Shuren Middle school.”
“But how can the duo execute such a brilliant Chain?! And with such synergy in their partnership!” The highschooler was simply puzzled. “Will anyone believe that two newcomers could master this tactic in a normal after-school training session within two months?
“Maybe… They’re simply exceptional…”
In the field, Yang Pan saw that he was being forced into the baseline, but he was still unable to shake the pair off; they followed him closely in ideal layering positions, preventing him from making any sudden breakthroughs. He made a sudden stop and turned, but collided with Zhang Yuchao, who had been closing in, losing the ball in the process.
“Yang Pan is being squeezed into a dead zone,” Zhou Peng noted.
Once again, Yang Pan was dispossessed by Li Yongle.
“Two against one, you guys are indecent!”
“We’re your enemy! Who cares about decency as long as we can stop you!” Zhang Yang shot back.
Li Yongle brought the ball forward, running past Wang Bo in the midfield and dropping Liu Lei with a dummy as he rushed into the area.
He took a shot!
The ball left the ground.
“Another useless effort…” An Ke dived to his side, thinking that he could get to it easily; but the ball dropped heavily in front of him! It bounced one time before slipping under An Ke’s hand!
2 : 1! Zhongyuan had flipped the score!
Sun Laihong, who did not have much to say throughout, leaped from his chair.
Three days, and he did it! Zhao Defeng smiled behind Li Yongle as he dashed around in wild celebration. “Maybe he is a genius after all…”
Zhang Yang shrugged at Yang Pan who was beside him. “Sorry! We’re leading!” he teased and ran to Li Yongle, screaming at the top of his lungs, “Hah! You brat! I love you!”
“1 : 2 . With 13 minutes remaining, there’s still time,” Liang Ke muttered to himself.
“What? To win?” Su Fei asked next to him.
“No, to equalize.”
“I’ve never seen the Zhongyuan team so excited. They’ve always been so aloof,” Zhou Peng noted as he watched the visitors running around madly, celebrating their score.
“Shu Guang really did make them feel the pressure,” his colleague offered.
“What a great team, to be able to push Zhongyuan to such heights! I really want to play against them.” Lin Ling smiled. “The experience would really be something!”
“Yang Pan is limited by Zhang Yang and Li Yongle while Ren Yu De is held back by Liu Chao. Wang Bo also looks like he lacks ideas against the Zhongyuan defense. Zhang Rui? Haven’t seen him for some time,” Zhou Peng said to no one in particular. “How will Shu Guang react?”
Yang Pan was facing the two-men defense again and he was breathing hard despite his usual fitness. How many times have they done this dance? He could not recall―what a troublesome pair indeed!
“Screw it!” Yang Pan sped up forcefully, trying to shake them off.
Zhang Yang slid in but missed, but Li Yongle’s follow-up sent Yang Pan out of the baseline along with the ball. The referee whistled, signaling no foul, just an out-of-bounds ball for Shu Guang.
Watching as Yang Pan slowly pushed himself up, Zhang Jun snorted loudly and stood up, startling Su Fei.
He went up to Liang Ke. “Coach, let me play!”
Liang Ke looked at him briefly before he turned back to the game.
“Just 10 minutes!”
Liang Ke looked at him again. “What did the doctor say about your injury?”
“Ten-days rest… But still! My leg doesn’t hurt anymore! I just did some keepie uppies and it doesn’t hurt anymore! I can play! Doctors are never right anyway!”
It was the first time Su Fei saw her neighbor, who always seemed like loafer behaving so emotionally. But it was also the first time she saw the cheerful Liang Ke being emotional too.
“Quiet!” the coach roared.
Clearly startled, Zhang Jun went quiet immediately.
“Who do you think you are? Maradona?! That you can change the entire game just by playing?”
“But, the match…”
Sighing, Liang Ke asked, “Zhang Jun, how old are you this year?”
“Yes, 16, Zhang Jun. There’s still a long journey ahead of you. How much does the outcome of one game matter compared to that? You’re going to be a professional soccer player and China’s future in soccer will be under your feet. What’s gonna happen if I let you play this game and your injury deteriorates? I don’t want to regret this my entire life and so do you. Go back to your seat.”
And with a wave of his hand, he ignored Zhang Jun completely.
In silence, the player understood what Liang Ke said and it was right; if he did aggravate his injury by playing, he could kiss the game goodbye. Nonetheless, did he really have to watch as his team lost? Did he have to see himself sitting under the shade of the technical area’s canopy, watching as his teammates poured their heart out on the field?
Su Fei could hear him. Even if his voice was soft, she heard him in the middle of the rowdy stadium.
“I can’t accept this!”