12 January 2011

One NC Game and Aches and Bruises

I recently linked up again after almost three decades through FB with a couple of teammates from college: Tommy Mirasol and Chu Lazaro. Guess what…??? I have been exchanging those-were-the-days messages with both for the last few days.

Eagerly!!! It’s been – like – twenty-seven years only???!!!

Immersed as I had been in my own teams over the last quarter of a century, I had almost consigned memories of college football to the abyss of subconscious memory. Strangely, the memories rush back with alacrity each time I write to them; and it’s as though the events happened only yesterday!

Of course, I do not remember everything! When the electrical impulses get jammed on their way to conscious memory, the two fill in the blanks. And vice-versa…

I even find myself recalling things we had not – yet, anyway – reminisced about in our FB messages. Like, there was this NCAA match we had against Letran in either late 1979 or early 1980…

Our opponents weren’t really what one could call a school team. The players were mostly RP Youth players from the Visayas who were enrolled practically en masse just for the purpose of representing the school.

We doubted that they even attended their classes.

The match was played mid-morning inside an empty Rizal Memorial Stadium. The pitch was bumpy as it tended to be in those days; grass was golden from lack of water; and there were bare gravelly patches all over the field.

Our opponents expectedly dominated territorial possession with their sleek short passing exchanges. Our defense held firm, though, and we counter-attacked with speed.

I played on the left wing in the first half, didn’t feel comfortable, asked to be switched to my “home” position on the right flank for the second half and helped to set up two of our goals. We won comfortably in the end, 3-1.

Great!!!

But apart from taking the corner which Monchu Garcia headed in and cutting the ball back for Paul Zuluaga’s simple tap in, there were two other things which I now remember the game for.

First, while still playing on the left wing in the first half, I had tracked back to cover my opposite winger while the opponents attacked. At one point, I slid in to win a lose ball. That bastard of a winger could have drawn back from his kick but chose to swing, nonetheless.

I caught two of six hard plastic studs slightly below and to the inside of my right patella! Do you know how that felt? For a few seconds, the knee was completely numb. Then the pain started to gradually creep in until it became almost head-splitting!!!

The studs left a couple of holes that bled profusely. Because shin guards were not required in those days – and I used to hate wearing them, anyway – the blood flowed freely down my shin.

I thought I was going to be substituted. God knows I wanted to be! And that’s the second other thing I now remember the game for! How I wanted – so much! – to leave the field…

It felt like it was on fire under the blazing mid-morning sun, and do you have any idea how painful it is to play under such circumstances when you have layers upon layers of yellow corn covering the soles of your feet?

But Dima – that was how we used to refer to our coach – had other ideas! He picked up my right foot and moved my leg this way and that to loosen up the muscles; then he told me the injury was nothing – it was not his knee bleeding, of course! Finally, he called in the team doctor to first spray the gaping holes with antiseptic and later with something anesthetic.

Take it easy for a while, was the advice. It wasn’t as though I could really do much under the circumstances, anyway.

Soon the anesthetic started to kick in; albeit the knee was swollen like it was one of those bulalos I wrote about in yesterday’s note. I finished the game, but guess what?

Pilay the next day; and I hobbled around school like a prisoner of war! Now those of you girls who played under me and felt bad when I gave you hell on those occasions I thought you weren’t pulling your weight…???

Now you know I had every right to raise hell!!! I DID have my own share of aches and bruises, like every self-respecting football player should!!!

[This story was first published on Facebook on 21 November 2008.]

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