Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 50 - Zero Suspense[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:29]
Chapter 50: Zero Suspense
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
It was a match with zero suspense. On one side were last year’s dark horse, whose ability was ranked among the top three in town right now. On the other side was Guan Lin, an average team that never made it past the final 16 each year. Whether it was timing, geographical advantage or personnel, there was not one aspect that pointed to a Shu Guang defeat.
Even their own opponents did not believe that they would ultimately win.
As a result, the third round of Luoyang qualifiers for the National Championships―the final 16 game where Shu Guang hosted Guan Lin―became a match with zero suspense.
“Autumn freshness, no clouds for miles, optimum temperature and breeze…” Liang Ke mumbled, looking up at the sky.
Not far away from him, the players were warming up. They looked very relax and were fooling around; Zhang Jun, who saw an opening to prank Yang Pan was being chased all over the pitch.
It was then that everyone else realized how fast Zhang Jun was―he was not losing out to Yang Pan! Each time Yang Pan almost got his hands on him, he would arch, burst forth and pull away.
Laughter filled the arena. Even the Shu Guang students who came to watch the game were infected by the relaxed players. All they talked about was how many goals Yang Pan and Zhang Jun would score, what an exciting performance Kaka would put on, Ren Yu De’s beautiful dribbling and so forth.
The attending reporters were no different. All they talked about were “Zhang Jun this”, “Yang Pan that”, “Kaka what”…
Since it was universally acknowledged that their opponents were nothing out of the ordinary, even individuals with an IQ rate of 35 could guess the result. The only issue was: how many goals would Shu Guang bag with their formidable attack. Three? Or, five?
Either way, nobody even cared about the other team. They had no stars, famous results and not even a single handsome player or pretty manager. It was as if they were born to be one of those film extras who did not even have a single line.
But what everyone failed to notice amid the relaxed atmosphere was the quiet and gloomy Ren Yu De.
Even Liang Ke was being lax in the pre-match meeting. He merely took care of the usual formalities and added, “There’s nothing more to say. Just do as you wish on the pitch!”
In the other team meeting, the only thing the Guan Lin coach told his players was, “Give your best, don’t leave any regrets.”
The referee’s whistle rang and the match began right on schedule.
Shu Guang attacked on the get-go. Kaka turned beautifully in the middle; his moves were as graceful as a ballet dancer, drawing squeals from the “Kaka Defense Squad”. The journalists joined in the commotion too with incessant flashes from their cameras.
After dribbling past another player, Kaka curved the ball to the right with the outer sole of his right foot. Yang Pan received it and feinted a run―the Guan Lin defender who came up to him reacted by quickly running back. Smiling, the Shu Guang captain began a burst through the middle and passed to Zhang Jun, who was approaching.
Two defenders closed in as Zhang Jun cut inside the box diagonally. Without stopping after receiving the pass from Yang Pan, he made a backheel pass to Ren Yu De.
Ren Yu De was unmarked! The angle was small but it was a point that he was used to scoring from, and he prepared to shoot!
Every other player and fan held their hands high as they stood, waiting to celebrate their first goal.
Under the unadulterated shouts of “Shu Guang, score! Shu Guang, score…” from their cheerleaders, Ren Yu De’s effort slipped pass a defender’s outstretched leg and the hands of the keeper, albeit flying over the crossbar and out of the line.
Like a sitcom, the cheers instantly turned into loud sighs. The photographers who had been at it most of the day only got the pictures of a missed shot.
Ren Yu De looked clearly frustrated after his miss and turned back in silence with his head hung low. Zhang Jun ran over to cheer him up.
“It’s fine! It’s fine! It’s just the first effort. There will still be plenty of chances.”
Yu De looked up to find his teammate smiling at him before returning to his position.
“Such beautiful teamwork! Too bad it didn’t go in!” Chen Huafeng mumbled to himself. “Those four are melding together more and more. Kaka’s passes, Yang Pan’s speed, Ren Yu De’s skill and Zhang Jun’s deadly finishing. I dare say they’ll have little competition even in the Nationals!”
Xiao Zhang learned over the last few games that it was a habit of Huafeng’s. He initially thought that his senior was speaking to him and responded in return―which usually soured things after that. He then learned to ignore the monologues―as long as Chen Huafeng did not say his name, he would keep quiet.
In one of the corners of the stands, there was another person who was “awed”.
“Shu Guang’s attack really lives up to its name! Hehe! Looks like Yu De is on form today!”
Barely composing themselves, Guan Lin’s kick from the goal fell into the midfield―but in 10 seconds, Shu Guang took possession of the ball once more. Wang Ning cleanly cut the ball off by edging the dribbling player away―he had vastly improved after two games and increased his rate of successful tackles as well as precise long balls.
Chen Bo and Lin Xiaofang were also noticeably better; the latter’s goal-line clearance in the last game proved that they played with their heads. This brought much relief to Liang Ke, for speed and technique mattered less than brains, and athletes who played using their minds would have a great future ahead.
Chen Bo’s unlimited stamina and fearsome, precise tackles; Lin Xiaofang’s powerful body and his improved awareness in defense along with the experienced third-years, Li Jieguang and Xie Yu, the defense alleviated Liang Ke’s worries as they raised a shield in front of An Ke. Conceding just one goal from two games proved it.
Wang Ning sent a long pass in attack. Yang Pan received and lobbed it to the left.
Ren Yu De chested the ball, played a few feints but did not burst into the box, back passing instead to the left-back, Xie Yu who had come up to assist with the offense.
Liang Ke furrowed his brows. It was a great chance for a breakthrough; Yang Pan’s quick pass had scattered the Guan Lin defense. If Ren Yu De had made his run, it would have been a great chance for him to score. It was the least appropriate time for him to be passing selflessly.
The coach was also finding his behavior bizarre―usually, Ren Yu De would charge headlong even if there were five opponents onto him, and this time he passed the ball out, away from the penalty area. It would have been decisive whether he made a pass or a shot but, he was simply unexpectedly selfless today!
Xie Yu passed the ball to Li Hao, who in turn gave it to the oncoming Chen Bo. Now that the usually static Shu Guang defense had moved pass the halfway line, there was truly no doubt how one-sided the competition was.
Every Guan Lin player had retreated into their own half. Against the famed Shu Guang offensive, there was no other way for Guan Lin other than to assume a thoroughly defensive formation―a formation that allowed Nanyang to weather through Shu Guang’s assault for 62 minutes last year.
However, they had forgot that the situation involved the Shu Guang of last year. This year, Shu Guang had Kaka―a player with outstanding technique, exquisite passes and first-class playmaking awareness in the midfield.
The Brazilian dribbled, turned, changed heading and accelerated. He then passed the ball to Zhang Jun amid the crowd. The striker turned and took a shot!
Guan Lin’s keeper knocked the ball away desperately. Not tarrying, a defender quickly cleared it with a long ball.
Liang Ke’s eyebrows arched and he began to tense. Ren Yu De was not being his normal self. He missed a shot he was so adept at in the opening minutes and just ahead of a clear penalty box, he opted to pass and not burst forward.
And then there was that ridiculous pass just now. Many of Shu Guang’s offensives stopped when it reached him.
The score was still 0: 0 at this point; Shu Guang had yet to open the scoring after 30 minutes. Guan Lin, growing in confidence, even managed a few counter-attacks.
Spectators on the stands were becoming quiet. Although the match was intense, they were apathetic due to the lack of goals. For them, however beautifully it was played, games without goals were meaningless.
Guan Lin was on the counter again in the thirty-seventh minute; their No. 20 dodged Xie Yu’s blunder of a tackle! Shu Guang immediately retreated―even Yang Pan, Ren Yu De and Kaka were all now keeping guard at the 30-m area from their own goal. Only Zhang Jun stayed up front.
No. 7 crossed low!
An Ke moved out and prepared to intercept the non-threatening cross. However, Ren Yu De made a high-speed sliding block and got to the ball in front of the keeper. But, it did not fly off the baseline, heading towards his own goal instead.
Despite all the color draining from his face, An Ke still changed directions and dived towards the ball, barely keeping it off the line―he almost collided with the posts himself.
Everyone, other than those affiliated with Guan Lin and that certain person watching from the stands breathed a long sigh. To dominate but not score and conceding to one’s own goal first would have dealt a heavy blow to Shu Guang.
And the almost-own goal did cause them trouble. The ensuing corner saw obvious confusion within the Shu Guang box.
There had not been such scenes of utter chaos in recent matches―it was reminiscent of their defense last year. The ball was scrambled around different feet, while An Ke could do nothing else but stay vigilant. If he dived out now, it would be fatal.
Shortly after, someone cleared the ball to the front, finally shaving off the danger.
An Ke looked serious now. That tackle from Ren Yu De did not look like a block and more like a shot! He was stunned at that very thought; it took a while for him to gather himself. Why was Ren Yu De doing this?
The coach then thought of the boy’s past―his days as an infamous ruffian before high school.
His family was a well-to-do one, but he hated their norms. As a result, he entertained his rebellious tendencies conspicuously, breaking rules and keeping company with street thugs.
The number of school regulations he broke was sufficient to have him expelled a hundred times over, but his family would use money as recompense for his transgressions in every turn.
This enraged him further and prompted worse behavior.
One day, finally reaching the limits of his patience, his father decided to send him to a reform school. However, he could not stand the sight of Yu De’s mother crying upon the day of registration as she wept at the thought of not seeing her son every day.
This changed his mind at the very last minute, and that was how Ren Yu De kept himself away from Yang Guang.
Later on, the presence of Wen Jiucheng, the chairing teacher of Shu Guang’s Morals Committee and his father’s former comrade led to Ren Yu De’s enrollment into Shu Guang. Everybody knew the rest; his love for soccer brought him back to the light.
That was his past. Although it was dark, his repentance had granted him a brighter future. So why?
Liang Ke knew that he had certain “friends” of shady backgrounds, and it could possibly be…
The Shu Guang coach himself was startled by those words. High school soccer had been all the rage in recent years―meaning that, while it attracted quite the number of fans it also drew in some flies. The coach himself had already learned of some high schoolers who were involved in fixing games, but never expected himself to be troubled by it.
That said, why would Ren Yu De agree to it? He had already secured himself a place in the first-team through his performance, not to mention winning accolades from critics and the trust of his teammates. He had a bunch of genuine friends and was in real need of money… So, why? What could make him sacrifice everything?
Gambling with his friends, his happiness and his future―would the payoff be worth it?
The referee blew his whistle twice, signaling the end of the first half. Both sides fought to a 0:0 draw, a result many did not expect.