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MY UNFORGETTTABLE YEAR
This is it. This is the moment I’ve dreamt about for almost my entire life! I marked the ball just seconds before the final siren sounded. If I get this, it’ll be the goal that wins us the premiership we’ve all been dreaming about. I’ll be the hero that saves the day! But first, I need to get this. My heart is pounding. My legs are weak and feel like jelly. My palms are so sweaty that if I grip the footy any tighter, it’ll slip right out of my hands. Focus, Nathan, focus. You can do this. As I begin to run up from forty metres out, I can feel the eyes of everyone stabbing through me. It’s excruciating.
Here it goes! I finally get the courage and boot the ball as hard and as far as I can. My eyes are glued to the footy, spinning through the air. It moves to the edge of the goals, but I still have hope that it’ll make it. It missed! My heart drops. I can’t believe this. We’ve lost the grand final!
The winning team, Echuca, and all of their supporters are now shouting out their team song and celebrating at the top of their lungs. A part of me is glad that they are so loud because it means I can’t hear the heartbreak and disappointment from my team-mates and the Kyabram supporters. I feel so shattered, I could cry. I just want to be anywhere but here. The team and the rest of the town must hate me right now. I can’t take this anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Everything we’ve done all year to get this far means nothing.
I look over at Dad. He’s a fair distance away, standing next to my coach amongst all the boys and their families. It’s as though I can feel his anger burning through me. He has his arms crossed and an angry look on his face. He’s furious! I reckon a part of him wants to storm across the ground and make me sorry for missing that goal. But you know what? I don’t care anymore. I tried my best the entire game and felt as though I was a one-man team. The boys all sat back and watched me do all the work. Come to think of it, almost all of them made crucial mistakes today. I did the best I could.
I want to try and make myself feel better about what’s just happened, but it’s not easy. We’ve lost the grand final by four points. Four bloody points! That’s less than a goal in difference. The Echuca players and supporters are celebrating the way we were supposed to. Dad must want to throttle me right now. My thirty-one possessions, five goals, and, as predicted by all the boys, the Best on Ground medal I will probably get, won’t mean anything to him. All because of that one goal that would’ve landed the premiership cup in our hands.
Around me, the boys are standing in a huddle with their heads dropped in despair. This is a lot more painful than I thought it would be. I can’t even look the rest of my team-mates in the eye and I don’t have the nerve to glance over at Dad again. The sinking sun is blinding me, as I gradually mope off into the cool, dark shadows of the grandstand. This refreshing breeze against my perspired and heated skin feels like a gift I don’t deserve. I wish I could just disappear. We stand, watching our opponents receiving their medals. No matter how many times I blink, my eyes still sting. The shiny cup is handed to their club captain and coach, as the rest of the team wave their flag over the railing.
A harsh cheer rings over the ground. A crowd of fans, as well as the local media, flash their cameras at the sight. This is all happening in painful slow motion. They run down the grandstand, with their cherished medals around their necks and are swarmed by their family and friends.
Above the noise of the ecstatic celebration, I hear my name called – echoing as though it comes from a million miles away. I glance up. My team-mates are staring at me. I slowly make my way through the crowd, with my legs aching. I walk up the stairs, each step more painful than the last. I shake hands with presenter, as he places the Best on Ground medal over my head. A subtle cheer and polite applause sounds from below. I force a stiff smile, as I wander down the steps.
My coach and the rest of the boys are finally walking off into our clubrooms. About time. I follow, with my head drooped, looking down at the ground, and trying my best to accept that we aren’t the reigning premiers. Not today. As I make my way into the clubrooms, I collapse onto the floor. I’m exhausted and it’s not just from giving it all I had out there. I take a few deep breaths to try and relax. Everyone is silent. Nobody can believe that it’s over. We’ve lost the chance that we worked tirelessly for all year. As I look up, I see Dad glaring at me. It’s one of the most chilling expressions I’ve ever seen from anyone – a look of disappointment and resentment. He absolutely despises me. I can’t take this anymore.
“What the hell is your problem? I did everything I fucking could out there!” I shout, standing up.
He looks even angrier now.
“My problem?” he yells. “My problem?” Dad’s voice has risen even more. Everyone in the room has stopped what they’re doing and is staring at us.
Dad charges over so quickly that I reckon an army tank couldn’t stop him. I feel my heart skip a beat. He grabs me by my jersey and slams me against the cold, brick wall.
“YOU LOST US THE GAME, NATHAN! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?”
I have never seen Dad so broken before. He must be an inch away from breaking down into tears, or worse, having a heart attack. I freeze, staring into his hateful, bloodshot eyes.
“Mark, get out of here!” Coach Garry yells from across the room.
Dad ignores him, as if it hasn’t registered. In fact, I think he is so overcome by psychotic rage that he’s completely blocked out his surroundings. Garry suddenly makes his way over, pushing through my team-mates and anyone else in his way. Everyone is in shock.
“Mark, get out!” he shouts again, trying to pull Dad off me.
“Don’t touch me!” Dad yells, breaking free from Garry’s grip.
He glares back at me for a short moment, before he turns and storms out. Everyone clears the way for him as fast as they can. They’re all in fear of what he might do to them if they get within an inch of him.
My heart is racing. I can feel sweat dripping down my face. My knees are trembling and everybody is still gawking at me. I can’t believe what has just happened, as if losing the grand final wasn’t bad enough! Dad has always been tough on me about footy, but I never thought he would do something like this to me. I feel as though he was a completely different person just then. The fact that all the boys and their families saw everything makes it even more humiliating. What will we even say to each other when I get home tonight? To be honest, I couldn’t care less if we never speak again. I doubt that things will ever go back to normal between us, not after what’s just happened in here. How can I ever forgive him for what he’s just put me through? I reckon that I won’t be able to look at him the same again.
My Unforgettable Year by Adem Besim
Reviewed by Dee H. Dodgson. UK.
Nathen is a 17yr old lad living in a small town in Australia and can’t wait to leave school. His plan is to leave the small, boring town and head for university in Melbourne, with his life-long best friend Matt, where he intends to study architecture. They just need to get through this last year and pass all their exams… what’s wrong with that?
Nothing’s wrong with that, except Nathan is excellent at football and his father is expecting him to play professionally; he’s not the kind of father you argue with, but Nathan only plays for pleasure and has no intention of seeking a professional career in footie!
And then there’s this amazing new girl at school who obviously likes Nathan too!
When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it; I’m not a lover of football and this being Australian football, made it even more difficult to get enthusiastic about as it’s quite different from English footie. Also it’s written from a 17yr olds perspective and I didn’t think I’d connect; how wrong I was!
Adem Besim’s style of writing gets right into your soul and you can’t help connect.
He can obviously take a year from anyone’s life and make a good story out of the usual events that happen to most of us during a 12 month period, but in this coming-of-age story, the emotion I felt was quite incredible as I walked with Nathan through his year. I felt what he felt and at one point, I was crying with him.
It’s a great insight into the strong emotions that run through a 17/18yr olds body, the confusing highs and lows; one minute it’s the happiest day of your life, the next you want it all to go away. Not only will you get totally involved in Nathan’s life during this year, but you’ll also be left wanting to know what happens, after you close the book! I know I’d like to know what happened to Nathan in his 18th year!
Apart from this being a good read, I also think it would be a good book for parents who have teenage boys; it may help get a bit of insight and understanding as to where he’s coming from and help you, as a parent, not to make the same mistakes!
Adem Besim is a good writer with a unique style and I think we will be seeing much more from him in the future.