Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 36[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:25]
Chapter 36: Ants
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
0: 3 against Jiudu High School.
0: 1 against Anguo High School.
Liang Ke stubbornly kept the losing streak going regardless of what others thought of it; the only thing that appeared to bear any weight upon him was that the goals against Shu Guang were decreasing.
The number of errors from Chen Bo and Li Xiaofang were also dropping―more importantly, they stopped repeating the same mistakes. Wang Ning was also becoming more relevant to the team; his partnership with the third-year Li Hao on the defensive midfield was gradually maturing.
Additionally, in the third warm-up match, they conceded just one goal after the entire team had been pinned down and bombarded for the entire game. For any team’s defense, it was the greatest reward.
Their opponents for the last warm-up game had already made contact; once again, they were the ones who asked for the match. It really was different when your team had a reputation.
Yingcai High School, who managed to defeat Zhongyuan in another practice match some time ago, were an ideal opponent. They had a new first-year recruit who was a capable striker. In the game against Zhongyuan, he alone managed to trick Li Yongle twice and scored past Zhang Lintao. What was his name again? Right! Ma Ni, a rather bizarre name.
“What?” An Ke cried out.
“Our opponents for the next warm-up game is Yingcai,” Liang Ke repeated. For the coach, it was nothing too surprising.
But An Ke was getting worked up instead of surprised, and he was not alone.
“Coach, do you still intend to train the defense in this game?” Yang Pan asked.
Bafflingly, Liang Ke nodded.
“Let us play, Coach!” Zhang Jun, who was usually unemotional was also becoming agitated.
“Coach, just let us play!” It was Ren Yu De this time.
“Hey! You guys… What’s all this?”
“Seriously! In the end, Old Liang isn’t promising us any game time,” Zhang Jun said, kicking off a pebble.
“That’s natural. Coach has already made his arrangements and you guys didn’t really tell him the truth,” Su Fei answered.
“It’s a good thing he was absent for a meeting in the city that day,” Yang Pan added. “If he knew that we had some conflict with Yingcai, wouldn’t he eat us up? Who would dare to tell him that?”
“I want to teach that rat a lesson right now!” Zhang Jun seethed.
“Yo! Since when did you become so aggressive?” Su Fei asked, slightly startled. Zhang Jun had always given her and many others the impression of being aloof.
Yang Pan remembered the tears his friend shed on that day and realized what transpired in his mind. “There are people who simply become another person once they discover who they really are.” He beamed.
Su Fei did not understand the meaning behind his smile. “What are you talking about?”
Yang Pan did not answer and merely kept smiling. Watching his old friend from behind, he felt that Zhang Jun was gradually changing. It was unusual that Zhang Jun’s soccer was beyond his years and there were also certain undesirable facets of his life. But, why did he always feel that his buddy was much younger than his real age?
Whenever people who started playing soccer were asked questions about their aspirations, most would answer that they wanted to become stars and inspire China, going beyond the Asian Continent. Only Zhang Jun alone would answer that he wanted “to make a lot of friends and play soccer with them every day.”
Goodness! What kind of dream was that? Most success was achieved solely with the desire for it. Yet, Zhang Jun continued playing despite holding such peculiar ideals. He had been so happy and satisfied after making so many friends that by all indications, he would keep doing it his way. Well! Was he being innocent or childish?
There were times when Yang Pan sensed that Zhang Jun played according to his mood on that day, without any sort of drive. The wealth and glory that attracted almost everyone did not seem to have any hold on him. If he was happy, he would play like crazy; if he wasn’t, he would play despondently. It was fortunate that he was easily angered and naturally optimistic, allowing him to perform consistently on the pitch. Nevertheless, he was already 17 and not supposed to be keeping this up; what he had to be doing was shoulder more responsibilities―whether he liked it or not.
Soccer, especially soccer for grown-ups was not a game that one could excel solely through temperament.
It was wishful thinking to stay that way, with sparkles in his eyes and an overwhelming spirit; with that, he would be unbeatable.
Shu Guang’s bus arrived at the game’s location―in Yingcai High.
Although he had been slouching away because he would not be playing, Zhang Jun was on alert once he saw a familiar face.
“Haha! We meet again!” The dwarf smiled wickedly at him. “I heard that you’re not playing today either, what a waste! Tut, tut! I wanted to embarrass you, but it looks like I won’t have the chance. You bunch of wimps!”
Yang Pan held Ren Yu De back, who looked like he wanted to teach the rat a lesson. “Don’t make a scene!”
The little one turned and went off just as Zhang Jun called out to him. “I never play against nameless pawns, what’s your name?”
The other turned back. “Ma Ni. Remember it.”
“What? Ants¹?” An Ke held his stomach and laughed in an exaggerated manner. “Damn! So there is such a name! Wahahaha! Your parents are really perceptive!”
Although An Ke was obviously acting, the others laughed alongside him.
All except Zhang Jun. “Just you wait, I’ll make you eat your words!”
“Oh? I’m afraid you won’t have the chance!”
It was not the first time Su Fei had seen Zhang Jun displaying that expression of his. She first saw it when there were 10 minutes left in that quarter-final match against Zhongyuan; the other occasion was the day Ma Ni caused a ruckus. But he should never be making such a face filled with blood lust; after all, he was supposed to be the lazy, occasionally humorous but usually clueless Zhang Jun.
Before the start of the game.
“How could this be, Coach!” An Ke’s high-pitched voice could be heard from afar.
“I’m the coach. What I say goes,” Liang Ke replied. “There’s nothing more to say, you’re not playing in this game; Cheng Xin is.”
“I noticed your behavior just now,” the coach added coldly. “I don’t want any sort of confrontation in the game.”
An Ke knew that he would not win the argument, so he sat down in a huff without a word.
Zhang Jun caught Yang Pan’s glance. Together, the pair took out a pair of shades from their pockets; they did not expect Ren Yu De and Kaka to do the same.
“Ouch! The sunlight is really blazing hot!”
Smiling bitterly inside, Zhang Jun knew that without An Ke, there was no doubt that the match was going to be a massacre. And it appeared that everyone was thinking the same thing.
As expected, Yingcai assumed absolute advantage over the game. Ma Ni was indeed a formidable striker; although just 163 cm tall, he was extremely agile. Even the combined partnership of Wang Ning and Li Hao was unable to hold him back; it was his turning accelerations that helped him evade their blocks on every turn. In the first-half, he scored a brace alone and another in the second half.
“He may be nasty, but he’s not easy to handle,” Yang Pan mumbled to himself.
“So, you’re not napping?” Zhang Jun asked.
“Do you think I could actually nap in the middle of this noise?”
“He’s a daunting figure. But if we do meet them, I’ll let them see!” Zhang Jun bristled.
“There’s no telling if we’ll meet them!”
“No! I must be allowed to play him!” Zhang Jun growled quietly. “I’ll send him to hell with my own hands!”
“Wow! Such a scary line! I’m getting the chills!”
“Still. There’s another shrewd one who hasn’t shown his true abilities.” Zhang Jun returned to his normal self. “Honestly, it was my first time seeing a goalkeeper block your shots directly with his hands. He didn’t even stumble, although you did push him back about a meter. What a monster.”
“Don’t mention him in my presence.” Yang Pan leaned his head upon his chair.
“Heh!” Zhang Jun smiled. “Could it be that you took a blow to your self-esteem?”
The match ended with a severe 0: 5 defeat for Shu Guang. Chen Huafeng, who had been going to the last three practice matches was already used to it.
He could see Liang Ke’s intent behind this; it was to shape up the Shu Guang defense―which he did in the last few games.
But in this game, the opponent’s diminutive striker was absolutely formidable. The Shu Guang defense was next to useless against him―in turn, this would deal a blow to the players’ confidence. Should it not be all about raising the players’ morale and self-belief before the real thing? What morale was there with defeat after defeat?
And in the four precious practice games, Shu Guang’s main strike force never played for a single minute―did they not need to shape up as well? The big day was around the corner and without any game time under their belt, was there a guarantee in their form?
Liang Ke, what are you thinking?
Ma Ni bumped into Zhang Jun, who was prepared to leave.
“I’m sorry, 5: 0; a rout for you!” There was that shady smile of his again. “You must have been crying? Why else were you wearing shades?”
“Keep barking while you can!”
“This ant is really arrogant!” An Ke puffed.
“A hateful ant, you mean!” Ren Yu De corrected.
“Luckily, I changed my name. Otherwise, I’d be embarrassed, sharing a name with that guy.” The one who said this was actually Kaka.
Yang Pan could not tell what Zhang Jun was thinking. His friend fell silent after they got on the team bus. Just an ant, yet everyone’s feelings were so damaged. What more awaited them in the preliminaries?
¹”Ma Ni” and “Ma Yi” sound similar in Mandarin. The latter means ants.