By Yamile Saied Mendez
I wake up and the first thing I remember is the encounter planned for this afternoon. The morning sunshine woke me, and through my lids, I can see the red fire that will bake the city with its all reaching arms. The morning meal must be over by now, but I’m not hungry. The adrenaline coursing through my veins will keep me going. I need a lucid mind, to be alert, to guess the enemy’s next move, to see my adversary defeated.
I raise myself from my damp, narrow bed, taking notice of each muscle, of each limb, of how strong I am, how young, how full of life. I am invincible, immortal.
My brothers-in-arms are waiting for me downstairs. I see them from my window, all young warriors like myself. I join them without hesitation. We have our banners, depicting our colors, blue and gold. Our mothers watch us go, with worry and sorrow etched on their faces. My mother bids me farewell and kisses my cheek. My baby brother tries to convince her one more time to let him come with me, but she won’t budge.
Some girls and women come with us, their faces lit up with anticipation. The tension in the air is an electrical current, pulsing from our hearts, uniting us all in this moment. I paint my face with the sacred colors, mumbling a prayer as my fingers trace the patterns that identify me from the rest of the world. My voice joins that of my brothers in our anthem and battle songs. Even the old men still have the burning fire in their eyes, telling us they’re confident; today we’ll be victorious. A few of my brothers resort to drugs and alcohol to obtain courage and hope. All I need to hear my blood singing in my ears is to see the giant flag dancing in the air, blue and gold, standing out against the background of the brown, living, swelling river that snakes its way behind the field.
The two armies take their places; even the building is chanting with us. Our heroes fight, running, jumping, kicking, flying through the air. Time stands still and rushes forward in a single second. Finally, from my throat a cry joins thousands of others in the primal act of celebration. The giant flag slides down the stadium, and the cry of “GOAL,” of victory, resonates across the universe.
I feel the tears streaming down my face; I wipe them and my hand smudges my battle paint. I look around me, and the sea of people glitters like candle light and sky in the afternoon light.
Our team has won the national cup. For tonight, we are the masters of the world. The city celebrates, and I go home. I promise my brother I will take him to the next game, as once my father took me when I was his age. My team has won; Rosario Central is indeed the center of the universe.
Copyrighted 2009 by Yamile Saied Mendez ; author retains all rights to the story.
PS: Here’s a link to the biggest, greatest, futbol flag of the world. It’s from my home town, Rosario, in Argentina. The city has two Major Futbol League teams, and when they play against each other, the city becomes a battle field. The Rosario Central fans are known as Los Guerreros, The Warriors, hence the name of the story.