Living With The French ~ A Novelette ~ Chapter Five

V

The Sporting Event

Thursday 8th April 1993

Today was the most exciting day yet. It was the day of the Handball match. It was a sunny day and as I woke, the rays of sunlight came streaming through the French windows and across my bed.

Of course, like everything else, I had no idea that there was to be a Handball match today. I only found out when the time actually arrived.

The day passed sooner than expected and towards the afternoon Arnaud announced, “Simon… Il y a un match d’Handball aujourd’hui.”
“Ah…” I said, “A quelle heure?”
“Maintenant.”

Right now? I thought to myself, but I don’t know how to PLAY Handball! Nevertheless, I followed Arnaud along some pleasant paths near the back of the school towards a very big gym.

Inside there were long stadium type benches for the crowd. I was very nervous about where I came in this sporting event, but to my relief I found out I wasn’t playing and was just supposed to be a spectator.

The whistle was blown – the match had started and Arnaud’s team had the ball. However, soon enough the ball was taken away from us by one of the players in the opposite team, Cologne Sué.

They charged down the court! They rammed their way through our defence, knocking players aside from here to there. Then! Like a bolt of lightning, the enemies’ best player jumped up in the air, span round like a propeller and – catapulted the ball into our goal! It was incredible! It was like nothing I had ever seen in all my life – not even on T.V.

Five minutes of playing had passed and the score was still 1-0. Yet, the enemy had not finished with their thrashing us. They stole the ball again. Their top player, like a missile, bombed down the court! He jumped… high in the air… then with the ball in his right hand, he whirled his arm round twice… and thunder…! SLAM! Another goal! We were being thrashed. 2-0!

None of the players could believe their eyes! Even Arnaud, a very good player, was flabbergasted! My jaw dropped down and hit the ground. But the storm was far from over. One of our players was rolling around on the ground clutching his right knee. He was injured! He was carried off the court. What would they do?

Then I noticed in the cluster of conferring players, one of them was pointing at me. What are they pointing at me for? I thought to myself. Arnaud called me over.

“Er…” he said in the best possible accent he could, “Can you er… play for us?”

Shock melted down my face. This was a decisive moment for my reputation and for representing England. I couldn’t exactly reject their request. What would people think, not to mention my friend Arnaud? I tried to look as concerned as I could, without hinting I’d never played the game before.

“Alors, naturellement.” I replied, calmly.

So onto the court I went. Heads turned, people pointed. Who is that new kid? Not even I knew what I was doing there, but I stood there, like a lemon, trying to look like the newest star in modern sporting times.

The whistle was blown again. Yet again the enemy gained the ball and scored, yet another goal. 3-0.

Needless to say, my recent entrance had not improved our situation. The best I could do was keep running up and down shouting and waving my arms in the air like the others do, in the sad hope of blending in.

The team was in very bad shape. Was there nothing we could do against this herd of charging elephants? Well, as it happened… yes. We had Arnaud! Well don’t get too excited about it – he’s only the boy who saved our bacon.

Arnaud had the ball. He charged down the court, bouncing the ball as fast as he could. Bang! He was knocked over, but still with ball in hand. To my amazement, he then jumped up backwards, did a sort of flip in mid-air (honestly) and catapulted the ball into the goal, knocking over the goalie in the process! What a fascinating goal! 3-1. We were coming back!

The whistle was blown again and the game continued. The opposition threw the ball at our goal as soon as they could. Luckily, very luckily, the ball rebounded off the cross-bar and landed in the arms of our pal, Arnaud. A gift from God.

Arnaud rammed himself through the bodies that stood firmly before him (at this point I had decided just to walk up and down the court in the direction that the ball was travelling). None of the opposing players could catch Arnaud up, he was so fast.

SLAM! Another goal from our fellow comrade. 3-2. The atmosphere now was amazing! The crowds were shouting, “ARNAUD! ARNAUD! ARNAUD!”

The whistle was blown again with only one minute left of play. The opposition had the ball and yet again their best player charged down the pitch. The ball kept getting knocked back every now and then, but still the enemy charged with all their might!

Their best player got himself in the scoring pose, and… like slow motion, he threw the ball with tremendous power… closer… and closer… until… finally… BANG! It hit our goalie on the forehead, rebounded and flew up into the air… higher… higher… then stopped, still spinning.

Then it came down again… Arnaud jumped into the air… caught the ball… and fell to the ground.

With only five seconds remaining, Arnaud, like the quiet yet ominous sound of a volcano about to give its final roar, arose from the floor like a leaf upon the wind and threw the ball with all his might… from our end of the court… all the way to the other end of the court… and… PLOP! It just bounced through the goalie’s legs!

“OUUIIIIII!!!” The crowd ROARED! They roared and roared with all their might! Arnaud had equalised the game! It was finally a draw after all that nail biting action of crawling to our peril!

“ARNAUD! ARNAUD! ARNAUD!” The crowd cheered.

Arnaud was the King and everyone loved him. All the players took him into the changing rooms where we all sang and praised, ARNAUD, The King of the Max Linder – Cologne Sué, match of ’93.

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