As I walked along the smooth AstroTurf, I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the towering Sierra Mountains that loomed in the distance. However, I could not act too surprised because I was “supposed” to be here. Prior to my arrival, Sergio, one of my new teammates, had specifically instructed me to pretend I was Manolo- another teammate who I was standing in for. My personal information had still not been processed yet by the league’s website, and to this day, they will see that my name is Manolo and that I am nineteen years old. Shortly after my arrival, my teammates and I began passing the ball around. It was so cold that day that you could see your own breath. After ten minutes had passed, the referee signaled to us that the game would be commencing imminently. I took up my position on the left side and what followed can be best be described as a roller coaster ride of emotions.
From the offset, we started out on the front foot. Unsurprisingly, we scored within the first couple of minutes. As is typically the case in soccer, the goal woke up both teams. The other team slowly began pushing us back into our own half. A couple of minutes later they scored two goals in rapid succession. The tide quickly shifted the other direction and we began attacking them again. In one particularly promising moment, I received the ball on the turn and began driving at the heart of their defense. Anticipating a hard foul, I threw myself to the floor. Upon seeing this, the referee, despite their protests, brandished a blue card to one of their players. If you receive a blue card, you have to sit out for five minutes. Besides that heated moment, the first half concluded with very little drama.
At half time, the referee came over to our side of the field and assured us that we had been the better team. He also encouraged us to keep it up. Because of this, we didn’t suspect that he would later end up sabotaging any chances we had at getting something out of the game. One key moment in the second half remains etched in my memory to this day. Early in the second half, my teammate Luis was inside of their penalty area about to make something happen when he got cynically taken down. Moreover, the player who had fouled him yelled something very threatening to him in Spanish and grabbed him by the neck. Naturally, Luis pushed him away. Yet, to our utter dismay, the referee sent Luis off the field. We all immediately headed to the sideline to remonstrate with one of the directors of the league. Our best protests were to no avail. To make matters even worse, we missed the subsequent penalty kick. That decision ultimately knocked the wind out of our sails and we crumbled. That’s the story of how we ended up losing the game 8-2.
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