Early-Mid 1980s, Willville District, Pleasantview
Daniel Pleasant’s immediate family took their seats in the audience.
They were there in the stadium to support him in his debut match, the first time fourteen-year-old Daniel was in the Starting Eleven for Simley Town B in the Under-18 League. They will be playing in their home stadium against opponents Simport County B.
Daniel’s younger sister, Jennifer, squirmed uncomfortably in her seat between their parents, Jeff and Diane.
“One day, I want to play football like Dan,” sulked Jennifer under her breath.
Diane handed her a bag of popcorn. “Eat this, and stop sulking.”
Jennifer put a piece of popcorn in her mouth, but did not look much happier. Her father turned to her.
“Jen, when Simley Town gets the ball, you should start cheering. If it’s Daniel who has the ball, you should cheer even louder than usual.”
Jennifer brightened up a little. “Dan’s wearing number 7, isn’t he?”
“Yes. 7 is a good number for a central midfielder. He’s very lucky to get that number. Now, let’s have a contest to see who cheers loudest for Daniel.”
Jennifer smiled and nodded.
“What if she gets a sore throat?”
“She’s here to have fun, Diane.”
35 minutes into the first half, only one goal had been scored, and it was by Simport County, Daniel’s opponents.
But Daniel still felt energetic and upbeat, as he had done his best whenever he got the ball. He was able to adapt to the last-minute instructions yelled from the bench, by his newly-promoted team manager, Andy Ferguson.
And most importantly, no major blunders. So far, so good.
Then one of his teammates, a Simley Town striker, was tripped by a Simport County defender in the penalty box. The crowd was in an uproar. Jeff and Jennifer joined the Simley Town supporters in yelling “penalty!”
Daniel watched as the referee pointed to the spot to award a penalty kick to Simley Town, and showed a yellow card to the offending defender. The Simley Town team captain, a seventeen-year-old striker, stepped up confidently to take the penalty…
As Daniel celebrated the goal with his teammates, he silently wished that he could one day become the main Penalty Taker, or at least the Free Kick Taker. Such opportunities would make it much easier for him to become the hero of the match. But of course, the flip side of the coin was that he could easily become the “villain” if he messed up the penalty or free kick.
After the Half-Time Break, into the 53rd minute, one of Daniel’s teammates, a sixteen-year-old defender, fell to the ground with a hamstring injury, and had to be substituted off. As this injured teammate also happened to be the Free Kick Taker, Coach Ferguson assigned Daniel to take over that role.
Daniel was surprised to be entrusted with the role of the Free Kick Taker in his debut match. It was tempting indeed, to let this get to his head, to become overconfident…
No, no, no. Daniel shakes himself back to reality. This is a responsibility he cannot afford to mess up. Concentrate, and focus on what is happening around him…
Before long, it was the 80th minute, and the score was still 1-1. A corner kick was awarded to Simley Town, and Daniel was jostling with players from both teams in the penalty area.
As the ball came in to the penalty area, Daniel noticed that it was just above him. He and a Simport County defender jumped to make contact with the ball…
Daniel’s head arrived first, successfully changing the trajectory of the ball towards his opponents’ goal. The goalkeeper got a touch on the ball, but could not stop it from hitting the back of the net.
2-1 to Simley Town!! Daniel ran cheering to the sidelines, with his teammates in quick pursuit.
In the audience, Jeff and Jennifer were shouting themselves hoarse, while Diane was content with clapping loudly with a wide smile.
Thankfully, the match ended with this scoreline. There could not have been a better outcome than to score a goal in one’s debut match, as that typically assures a player of his place in the Starting Eleven. Coach Ferguson’s wide grin and hearty congratulations were enough for Daniel to beam with pride and joy for an entire month.
As Daniel headed back to the stadium entrance to meet his family, he caught sight of a familiar face. It was a girl from his school, Mary-Sue… Daniel did not know her last name. He had seen her around school, but she had never struck him as the type who had any interest in football.
So he was surprised to see her walk directly to him, as she needed to interview him for the school paper.
Daniel could remember neither her questions nor his responses, but made a mental note that his interviewer’s surname was “Oldie”. He could not stop staring at her face, which Daniel thought was exotically beautiful, despite her no-nonsense, businesslike manner.
Then it was over. She walked off briskly.
Daniel told himself to wait for Mary-Sue Oldie’s article to appear in the school paper first, before making any attempt to ask her out.
Will this young Romance sim, Daniel Pleasant, break hearts or get his heart broken? What about his sister, Jennifer?
Find out in the [next chapter] …
GOALS OF DANIEL PLEASANT – Chapters
– [Extra 1] Primary League B? Relegation?
What do these terms mean? How do they work?