“And that’s what I call a 90th minute stunner,” she said winking at him, kept her gamepad on the table and ran towards her friends to celebrate. Totally dumbstruck, he was left with his mouth open. Neymar beat two defenders on the left flank and delivered a beautiful cross to Messi who had no half pleasures in heading it past a clueless keeper. Reminiscent of a well-rehearsed Barcelona routine isn’t it? Well, she had just executed it perfectly in the virtual world.
He had beaten his college’s so-called “FIFA heavyweights” en-route to the semi-final of the FIFA tournament. He was probably astonished as well as amused to see a girl’s name in the upcoming fixtures’ list. With the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, James Rodriguez, Sergio Ramos at his disposal, his Real Madrid side was beaming with confidence.
Fellow students had flocked in to catch a glimpse of this “wondergirl” who was competing for a place in the final. The stakes were high. Having defeated his previous two opponents 5-0 and 4-1, he had started to develop a swagger about himself. He quickly glanced at her. Straight, shoulder-length hair, average height and child-like eyes. She was wearing Barcelona’s jersey with Messi’s name behind it.
“Beee-aaa-uuu-ttt-iiii-fullll,” he murmured to himself. Girls wearing football jerseys instantly appear attractive.
El-Classico kicked off. He spent the first ten minutes passing the ball between his players, dribbling and showing off his skill moves. Probably he wanted to entertain the crowd and impress his opponent. (Well who wouldn’t).
A few meaningless passes later, he decided to make the first move and played the ball long to Ronaldo who beat her two defenders, but shot it straight at the keeper. There were gasps among the audience. “Almost got you there,” he screamed. “Next time you won’t come even close,” she countered coyly.
There was something odd about this match, he felt. Very soon, realization dawned on him that she had marked his central striker out of the game, thwarting his game plan. He was getting desperate to score; her defence was too stubborn to let that happen.
“What on earth is going on?” he asked himself as the first half drew to a close. She had a warm smile on her face. Her tactics had worked. Even in his wildest dreams he wouldn’t have imagined that a girl would compete with him in FIFA, let alone successfully deploy a man-marking strategy. 0-0 at half-time. He looked at her, gave an awkward smile and had two sips of water possibly unsettled at the fact that he hadn’t made much of an impact against her.
The second half began in a very different way. She made short passes after short passes. He couldn’t get a sniff of the ball. His frustration knew no bounds. “Tiki Taka…it’s called Tiki Taka,” she said in a playful voice. He didn’t know how to react. Here was a girl who knew everything about football and was owing him completely in front of an audience which was growing every minute.
Very soon the inevitable happened and she scored the first goal! Yes, it was Suarez who put her in the lead. “Yayyyyyyyyyyyy!” she screamed almost emulating the on-screen celebrations. By now, the crowd started chanting her name. It had become like an away-game atmosphere for him.
Switching to an all-out attack mode, he decided that enough was enough. Benzema had the ball in front of her goal; he gave his everything and pressed the shoot button. The ball hit Pique’s hand followed by a distinct Martin Tyler’s scream – “PENALTY to Real Madrid!”
“That’s unfair!!!!” she shrieked. “He was taking his hands away!!!”
He didn’t say anything and coolly struck the spot kick in the back of the net. 1-1!! He didn’t celebrate. It was evident that he was more relieved than happy.
With just 10 minutes to go before the final whistle, the momentum had shifted towards him. Bale’s shot hit the post as she shuddered. He was determined to win. Against the run of play, however, she did the unthinkable. From the centre of the midfield, she gave a beautiful long ball to Neymar who made a run towards the left flank. He beat two defenders through step-overs in both directions, crossed it to Messi who scored!
“And that’s what I call a 90th minute stunner,” she said winking at him, kept her gamepad on the table and ran towards her friends to celebrate. The crowd gave her a standing ovation and she acknowledged them with a heart-melting smile. He walked towards her, congratulated her generously and walked off, still in a state of shock.