Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 83 - Finals[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:40]
Chapter 83: Finals
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The year was 1999. It was a fiery time, full of blood and passion; youth and dreams; sweat and tears. It was uncertain how many still remembered it after many years later. These teenagers offered their own sweat to chase their dreams and after many more years, who knew how many of them would still talk about it happily.
On this particular winter day, things were a little unusual…
When Zhang Jun and Su Fei left the house, Zhang Jun’s parents were packing and getting ready to cheer their son on in Xigong Stadium. Zhang Jun’s mother did not attend the semi-finals, so today she handed the store over to a buddy of hers and went to watch the game.
The members of the Shu Guang soccer team had to arrive in school half an hour before the scheduled time, because the principal wanted to personally send them off. Even though he would be at the stadium to watch the game, this visit was like a special ceremony. Although there were some formalities involved, it was absolutely necessary.
The principal said, “For your dreams and the glory of the school, fight with your sweat and let your heart fly!” Due to the generosity of his words, everyone was pumped and they began to howl like hungry wolves as they rushed into the bus.
Su Fei would usually be excited at a moment like this, but today, she sat next to Zhang Jun in an unnatural state of silence.
Liang Ke followed his usual routine of being the last to get on the bus. He then waved his hand and said, “Start the bus!”
“To the stadium!”
Their shouts made the bus move and it began to drive to Xigong Stadium.
Along the way, Su Fei remained silent unlike her excited teammates. When the bus started to move, she grabbed on to Zhang Jun’s hand tightly and refused to let go throughout the entire trip.
The bus headed off into Jiudu Road from Nanchang Road, then it drove off towards their destination. Once the bus turned into the west gate of Xigong Stadium, the noise from the venue was audible in the bus. The finals attracted not only fans from Luoyang but also teams from other regions to watch and collect information.
Zhongyuan High school was the number one winner of this game and they naturally attracted attention. Many opponents in the National Championship came out to scout their enemy.
Zhang Jun hopped off the bus and reporters surrounded the scene at the bus. Zhongyuan High School had arrived a few minutes earlier, hence the press already started their “encirclement and suppression of doom”.
“Zhang Jun! Are you going to perform another hat-trick in this match?” a reporter shouted loudly across several people.
“Not possible.” Zhang Jun shook his head.
“Huh? Why?” The reporter was apparently not prepared for Zhang Jun’s humble answer.
“Because our opponents are Zhongyuan High School today.”
“Zhang Jun, which is more important to you, the title of best shooter or the championship trophy?” another reporter asked a nonsensical question.
Zhang Jun rolled his eyes, thinking that if he did not have any questions, he should have just gone away. “Well, what do you think?”
“Zhang Jun! There have been rumors that Li Yongle decided to play soccer because he wanted to compete with you. Is this true?
Zhang Jun looked up and Li Yongle had his gaze cast in his direction too. It was probably safe to assume that a reporter also asked him something along the lines of, “Excuse me Li Yongle, there have been rumors that you decided to play soccer because you wanted to compete with Zhang Jun. Is this true?”
Li Yongle glanced at Zhang Jun, then turned back and nodded at the reporter. Zhang Jun returned his gaze and replied, “Correct.”
The reporter who asked this question was very excited. It was as if he had been waiting half a day for a reply. He quickly threw out another question again, afraid that other reporters would steal his question. “So, in today’s final, do you think you you beat him?”
“That, we’ll have to wait until the match ends to find out.” Zhang Jun had an expression of uncertainty as he shook his head.
The reporter was also disappointed and he helplessly thought of another question to ask. “Then, will you be using your Rising Dragon again today?” he emphasized the word “again”.
“You’ll have to wait until the match begins to find out.”
“Scary!” An Ke exclaimed as he placed his bag on a stool. “I almost died! Is this really the finals?”
Others did not say anything. They headed into the stadium and looked at the lively scene before them. Their enthusiasm from before was swept away and they tensed up. Then, they said the same thing as An Ke, “Is this really the finals?” There were twice the number of reporters compared to the semi-finals and the stands were packed with more than 20,000 people. Their deafening cries practically blocked out their hearing. Before the match started, a cheerleading group consisting of 20 pretty, high school girls performed.
It felt like they were watching the opening ceremony of A-League, and the organizers had asked Aaron Kwok to come out and sing “Let’s Move”.
The players changed their clothes and listened to their coach’s arrangements.
“Shu Guang will definitely still play in 4-3-3 formation. As long as they are well organized, they won’t change. Yang Pan, Ren Yu De and Zhang Jun will still be the front attackers with Kaka covering their backs. This year, Shu Guang’s attacks are unprecedentedly strong. We have to use the spirit of 120,000 for our defense. Our formation will be 4-5-1. The purpose of this game is very clear: we need to remain steady and stop Shu Guang’s attack, so we have to constantly fight against it. He Jialin and Zhang Yuchao’s speeds aren’t weak; we need to play to the power of quick counter-attacks. Li Yongle, this game will test the effectiveness of the training you’ve undergone for your long passes.”
Li Yongle nodded.
“I don’t need to say anything more about defense; everyone should be able to understand. We had a match against them before and it was a close victory for us. Yang Pan’s speed and long shots are worrying and this year, his improvements have been obvious. However, Zhang Yang and Lu Qing, I believe in both of your abilities, especially Lu Qing. You didn’t participate in the match with us last year, but in terms of speed, you aren’t losing out to Yang Pan. You’ve assisted Zhang Yang in the position of lower back and Li Yongle has also reminded you of this. So, don’t be anxious and worried. Let your worries go and be bold, do whatever your heart desires!”
“Also, Liu Chao, Ren Yu De is indeed an expert in dribbles. During the match with Dingding, he could single-handedly put Dingding’s line of defense in danger. However, physical strength is one of the most important factors constraining him. You are deadly to him, so snare and burn his physical energy without any worries.”
“Oh yes, Li Yongle, I know the relationship you have with Zhang Jun, but this match is very important. I hope you will give priority to the overall situation of the team. Don’t bother about Zhang Jun this time, Luo Bin and Deng Rui will handle him. You are in charge of Kaka.
Li Yongle stared at his coach blankly, but after a while, he nodded.
“Kaka is a character you must absolutely not underestimate. I hope you’ll dedicate all your abilities to deal with him just as you have with Zhang Jun. Don’t let him attack the organization.
Li Yongle nodded. Zhang Yang glanced at him, but he did not see any change of expression on Li Yongle’s face.
The trumpets sounded across all directions in the stadium; it was time to get working.
“Good afternoon to everyone in front of the television and the fans in the stands. Today’s final match is between Zhongyuan High School and the new Shu Guang High School. The commentators for this match are yours truly, Wang Qiang and Mr. Zhou Jian Sheng.”
“According to the starting line-up we have, both coaches have come up with the strongest line-up. The list of appearances for Zhongyuan High School is as follows, No. 1, goalkeeper, Zhang Lintao; No. 6, left back, Zhang Yang; No. 15, right back, Hao Liu Zhao; the two central defenders are No. 2, Deng Rui and No. 21, Luo Bin; the center half back consist of two players as well, No. 17, Lu Qing and No. 10, Li Yongle; then there’s the left midfielder, No. 7, Zhang Yuchao; right midfielder No. 8, Zhang Yulin; the captain at the front is No. 18, Zhao Defeng; and last but not least, forward, No. 11, He Jialin. Zhongyuan High School will be playing in a formation of 4-5-1.”
“In this match, Luo Bin is a senior student who is repeating his third year of high school, therefore he is also able to participate in this tournament. In comparison to last year, this lineup has one less forward, who has already graduated. This would be Li Qiang and he’s been replaced with the back defender, No. 17, Lu Qing.”
“The following is the list of Shu Guang appearances; Shu Guang will be going with a 4-3-3 formation: goalkeeper, No.1, An Ke; left back No. 6, Xie Wei and right back, No. 3, Chen Bo; central defender No. 4, Li Jieguang and No. 5, Lin Xiaofang; back midfielder, No. 8, Wang Ning and No. 17, Li Hao; front midfielder, Kaka; forwards are No. 7, Captain Yang Pan, No. 20, Ren Yu De and No. 11, Zhang Jun. This lineup is also the best line-up for this year. Any predictions for today’s game, Mr. Zhou?”
“Hmm, Zhongyuan High School has traditionally been the strongest team. They’re the kings and they’re called as such because of their defense. Zhongyuan High School’s defense is a tradition and the team has always insisted that ‘victory is based on solid defense’. This year, Zhongyuan High School attached a high degree of importance to defense as well. Zhang Lintao is a simple and stable goalkeeper, who has been unobstructed thus far, while Luo Bin is an excellent middle defender. He has four years of experience in big tournaments, plus his three years of cooperation with Deng Rui has made their line of defense comparable to a concrete wall. Zhang Yang is a brave back defender and Liu Chao’s one-on-one ability is super strong—even Fan Cunjie is jealous of him. In addition, there’s Li Yongle, the talented genius who has attracted wide attention across the country. Offensive players often come back to defense and Zhongyuan High School’s defense is the most difficult to break through in the country.”
“What about Shu Guang?”
“Shu Guang is a very characteristic team. If Zhongyuan High School is stable, then Shu Guang would be passionate. Their advocating offense and personal skills are excellent. Although there aren’t any eye-catching attacks among the group of four people, attacks are still very important. Once can say that it’s Shu Guang’s foundation. The stability of this foundation can only be built upon and it doesn’t need to be fancy. It is precisely when they are in a defensive situation that they’ll go all out and perform their duties with due diligence. Zhang Jun as well as the others can confidently and boldly charge the offensive half of the field with their talents. As Shu Guang has never entered the Nationals, I can only say that they’re the sharpest spear in Luoyang.”
“Hehe! So, this game will be a conflict between the sharpest spear and the strongest shield.”
“Indeed, that’s the exact way to describe it.”
“Then, who do you think will win, Mr. Zhou?”
“Well, there are many variables within Shu Guang to consider. Their weakness and advantages are obvious. Their offense relies on the tacit understanding between the players themselves and getting to play with them can be incredibly grand. If they did not get along in the first place, things would have ended being silly. However, when Shu Guang’s offense is on fire, their defenses are under tremendous pressure. As I said before, Zhongyuan High School’s defense is good, but that doesn’t mean that their offense won’t work. In fact, Zhongyuan High School’s offense does not depend on individual ability, but it is the result of the team’s effort.
“Despite the hard work that Shu Guang’s back defender has displayed, there is still a gap in strength and it is difficult for Shu Guang to prevent multiple attacks at different levels. In contrast, Zhongyuan High School is a very stable team. Although there are no shortage of stars, most of these stars just provide tactical fan service instead of tactics that benefit a team. Therefore, that one player’s dysfunctional play doesn’t really affect the team as a whole. A soccer team like that can be very frightening. Of course, that aside, in this highly anticipated final, anything can happen. Both teams may have mistakes, but who has fewer mistakes; who is the better one to catch the other’s mistakes; and who will win the game, these are all empirical. Therefore, I think the more comprehensive and experienced Zhongyuan High School will win the final victory. Although Shu Guang would not be able to accept this result, they are still too inexperienced.”
“Alright, thank you Mr. Zhou for your wonderful analysis. Let’s wait for the appearance of players from both sides.”
“I believe the coach of the Zhongyuan High School team must have been watching our recordings of the game, and it’s been the same for me. Everyone is familiar with each other and this match will be a comparison of their own strength.” Liang Ke faced the team as he said, “In contrast to last year, our opponents have a new face, No. 17, Lu Qing. He is a fast-paced midfielder and it’s a said that he was a winger in middle school. Their coach is ready to contain Yang Pan from the very beginning, so Yang Pan should pay more attention.”
Yang Pan nodded. “I won’t let them get comfortable.”
Liang Ke then turned to Zhang Jun. “Zhang Jun, everyone knows about your relationship with Li Yongle now, and the media also sees the confrontation between the both of you as the biggest focus of this game. But, do you think you’ll really be together in this game?”
Zhang Jun thought about it for a while, then shook his head. “Nope.”
Liang Ke nodded his head. “That’s correct. If I were the opponent’s coach, I would surely send Li Yongle to keep an eye on Kaka, because Kaka is the initiator of the offense. Watching him means cutting off the link between the midfielders at the front. So Kaka, you have a big fight ahead of you today.”
Kaka smiled and raised his thumb. “I have confidence in myself!”
“The opponent will likely use Luo Bin to defend against you. Luo Bin has four years of experience in matches and he has excellent physical fitness as well as explosiveness and speed. He is indeed the best person to defend against you, so be careful,” Liang Ke exhorted Zhang Jun.
“An Ke you’re in charge of commands for the back line defenders.”
“No problem! I won’t allow to be safe throughout the whole game, hehe!” No one knew if he meant it for his back defenders, or the opponent’s front offenders when he said “won’t allow to be safe”.
“Ren Yu De.”
After Ren Yu De heard his name, he looked up.
“Last year, you were pressured by him during the entire game and today, the opponent’s coach will certainly have him defend against you. It’s going to be a meeting of enemies! How about giving him a taste of your excellence?”
Ren Yu De knew what Liang Ke meant by “him”. Zhongyuan’s right back, No. 15, also known as the “one-on-one” expert that even Fan Cunjie of Dingding was jealous of for his three pointers. Last year’s competition was one of his few successful breakthroughs. He could not afford to repeat the same mistake this year. In honesty, he had no confidence, but he still nodded.
Liang Ke looked at his watch. “The time is here, everyone to the field! Remember, your goal is to get to the championship!”
“The finals for 15th National High School Soccer Championship Qualifiers in Luoyang are about to begin soon. Our audience of 23,000 spectators are waiting in excitement for the referee to blow the whistle for the kick-off.”
As though in response to the commentator’s words, deafening cries sounded from the stands.
“Ah Gui! Ah Gui!”
Wang Bo looked around to find the source of the voice.
“I’ve been calling you a couple of times already. Where were you looking at?” Su Li said.
“Dang it! You guys are seated there and dressed so inconspicuously, I couldn’t find you all in the vast sea of people!”
“No one knows that you have small eyes,” Zhang Rui quipped.
“How do you know? Your eyes are small too! And you’re a high school student, do you even know how Physics works?”
“I’m not an academic person, okay!” Zhang Rui said.
“Ha! That’s quite right! Li Xiaopeng, why didn’t you bring Wei Wei?”
Wang Bo squeezed into Li Xiaopeng’s side.
“Get out of here! You also address her by Wei Wei?” Li Xiaopeng laughed as he gave Wang Bo a punch.
“Hehe, Liu Hui, Liu Lei, Shang Jin, everyone’s here! Good, good!”
“The old captain just has to say the word and I’m here.” Shang Jin laughed.
“That’s right! Didn’t I rush here from Zhengzhou?” Wang Bo stretched.
Su Li watched the field.
They’ve really come this far. How could we not come to see? This is an appointment not to be missed.
Everyone kept quiet and watched the green soccer field silently. It seemed as though they were all reminiscing on their own soccer years.
“Do you regret it?” Wang Bo suddenly asked.
“Regret? Regret what?” Su Li did not quite understand.
“Regret not studying for another year. Perhaps, you would’ve been standing on the field today instead of sitting here as an audience.”
Su Li laughed. “What about you? Do you regret it?”
Wang Bo shook his head. “I don’t know. There are times when I regret it; like why was I a senior last year, not a freshman. But, there are times when I don’t regret it. We would have had to leave earlier anyway and they were the ones who brought the team to this day; what does it have to do with us? Why are my eyes red?”
Su Li leaned on to Wang Bo’s shoulder. “I feel the same as you!”
“They’re out!” The trumpets sounded excitedly.
Both teams set foot on the green field under the leadership of three referees, and the stands suddenly burst into great cheers.
After the national anthem was played, the captains of both teams took their sides and stood on the field according to their respective formation.
Everyone came; parents, friends, fans, reporters… It was the finals, the most anticipated finals, and everyone was there.
All of a sudden, the stands quieted down and the banner blowing in the wind was the only thing that could be heard. Everyone was waiting, waiting for the referee to sound the whistle for the opening.