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I was playing as a back. I thought Bhajua would be able to manage perfectly on his own, but I discovered that other than being a loud mouth, he did not have any skills. When the ball came to him, Bhajua attempted a huge shot. But his leg missed the ball completely and he crashed on to the ground. Luckily, goalkeeper Gobra was alert or else it would have been a sure goal.
Gobra sent the ball flying into the centre of play and our right-out Habul Sen trapped it neatly and rushed towards the rival's goal. I heaved a sigh of relief that the danger had passed.
But how long can you expect peace to reign in a football field? The very next moment I saw Nara Mittir approaching our side at terrific speed. Bhajua went to challenge Nara but could not even touch him. Only I stood between Nara and Gobra now. "Charge ... Charge. Paala charge," my captain Tenida yelled at me.
I closed my eyes and kicked. Surprise! Nara Mittir stood stupefied and ball went flying to Habul Sen.
"Bravo, bravo Paala. Well saved," the crowd cheered. My chest swelled in pride ... I, Paalaram, had actually staved off an attack from Nara Mittir!
But here was Nara Mittir approaching again. This time it was providence, rather cow dung, which saved me. Some cow had chosen the football ground as a toilet and Nara slipped over the dung and fell. I cleared the ball and the stadium once again echoed with shouts of "Bravo Paala, bravo".
The referee blew his whistle to signal half-time. "You seem to be a regular first class player," Tenida said coming up to me and patting me on the back, "you must be given an opportunity to play in other matches from now on". After hearing such compliments, I drank two glasses of lime juice and steeled myself for the second half.
The play in the second half resumed. Immediately after commencement of the play, there was Nara Mittir charging like a mad bull. But Bhajua was determined this time, and he rushed to meet Nara. The next moment there was an ear-shattering scream. Bhajua had left the ball alone and kicked Nara Mittir on the shin; Nara Mittir took his revenge by punching Bhajua hard in the face. Then, both crashed to the ground ... unconscious. Bhajua did not know that Nara Mittir was a boxer. The game was stopped for about three minutes. The two were removed and the play was resumed. With Nara Mittir out of action, it was evident that the Vagabonds had lost their steam. I got some respite as the ball stayed away from my tired legs. Just few minutes of play were left, and if I could manage to ward off the attacks, I could return back to Potoldanga a hero.
I saw a rival player making a last ditch effort. I ran forward to meet him, but slipped over the cow dung - the same dung that had thwarted Nara Mittir's goal attempt earlier. Meanwhile, the rival player took a shot, but the ball grazed past the goal-post and went out of play.
I picked myself up but the fall had caused me to lose all sense of direction, and I found the world spinning. The only thing that I desired now was to get out of the field and go home. The referee looked at his watch. Just a minute's play was left. "Take the goal-kick," I heard Gobra telling me.
I kicked with all my strength, and there was an uproar, "Go ...al, go .. al". For a moment I could not comprehend what had happened. Had I kicked the ball so hard that it had flown from our goal-line right into the rival's goal?
The truth, however, dawned soon. I found Gobra looking at me with his mouth wide open. Even the ball, peeking out of our own net, seemed astonished at what I had done. I had kicked the ball into our own goal!
Then? Well, after that I remember having fled for my life and am now hiding behind these bushes. I can still hear the Vagabond supporters chanting in unison, "Three cheers for Paalaram ... hip hip hurray."
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu