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By David Goodwin

 

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The Game

Anticipation ripples through the city as its newly swelled population eagerly awaits the coming of the match. The normally dormant crowds are now transformed into a multitude, a sea of swarming colours: reds, blues and greens merge to become one as the masses are seen swarming through the city square towards a unified destination the stadium.

To the fans, the stakes could not be higher. One slip means millions of crushed hopes. One wrong decision results in rage and hatred, but one well-placed kick consummates pure joy for millions of avid followers around the globe.

 

Hours before the game, the masses are heard chanting their war cries, taunting each other to the point of fury. The opposing fans eye each other off, like bloodthirsty soldiers, looking for chinks in their enemies’ armour as they prepare to do battle. They stand on their seats around the stadium, hoisting their banners high. Each side of supporters, loyal to the last, glorious in the adulation of their heroes, but vicious in the ridicule of their enemies. The stadium (fortunately split in two) is contrasting to say the least. Red and Blue face each other and prepare for battle like a dormant volcano, awaiting the inevitable eruption.

 

Suddenly this explosion takes place as the players emerge from the safety of the tunnel. They are greeted by rapturous applause of their supporters… along with the spiteful and malicious derision from the opposing forces. As these emotions merge, all that can be heard is a deafening roar that reverberates around the stands, causing the stadiums’ very foundations to omit a low rumble.

 

A flash of colour suddenly appears as several bright crimson-coloured flares are let off around the arena and with its enclosed roof, the atmosphere created is a hazy, hostile battlefield that somewhat resembles the sulfuric pits of hell.

 

Spurred on by cries of discontent, the reluctant referee, dwarfed by the giant athletes, blows his whistle and the ground becomes alive with movement. The roar somehow reaches more decibels than before and the yells of the players, only metres away, are overpowered by their supporters outbursts. As the match progresses, the roar slowly decreases to a buzz that hums around the arena as the masses settle.

 

This silence doesn’t last long as a player darts down the wing, leaving three slow, bumbling defenders in his wake. In slides a defender, and after gleefully skipping his tackle the midfielder crosses the ball goalward. In an action almost parallel to his teammate, an optimistic forward bolts down the center of the pitch towards the ball and as it is crossed, he can be seen bustling his way past several defenders as he soars to meet the ball…

 

Goal. While the ball agonisingly flies past the desperate, outstretched hands of the keeper, the delirious mob behind the goals rise as one: a sea of red, swarming with delight, triumphantly raising their arms in victory as the opposing side of the arena, clad entirely in blue, stare in disbelief, speechless.

 

Soon after play resumes, the verbal war between the supporters hastens and grows evermore spiteful.

Insults, then bottles are traded as riot police move hastily into position and get ready to earn their money.

But this doesn’t deter the mob as they continue their bickering, which, thankfully, hasn’t graduated into anything more serious.

 

But then it happens. As if the entire stadium was filled with gas, a single spark occurs to ignite already frayed tempers. A young, na´ve striker, darting in a zigzag pattern towards the goals, is rapidly approaching his date with glorious destiny. Forty yards out, he releases a venomous rocket off his left boot and the ball, like a heat-seeking missile, soars and curves, seeking the top-right-hand corner of the net.

 

Anticipating celebration, the young looks put of the corner of his eyes and formulates a vision of something sinister, approaching at breakneck speed. Realising that this glimpse could be somewhat more menacing than originally anticipated, the young, unschooled competitor turns and stares into the stone-cold eyes of his nemesis and sees something more than rage.

 

As all colour drains from his face, the young man, in vain, attempts to protect himself in the best way possible. He thinks he glimpses a glint of metal studs as his legs are taken from under him and broken in a sickening crack. A deafening silence speeds around the stands as the crowd watches, filled with horror, but unable to look away. They witness the young man flip up in the air, like a scarecrow in a vicious storm. People in the front rows then catch the evil snigger of his adversary as the young man lands in a crumpled heap – motionless.

 

Even opposition supporters shudder in sympathy for the dismembered object that once resembled a successful athlete. But their empty sentiments are silenced by the white-hot rage and vehemence that spews, like molten lava, from the red side of the arena. They leap from their seats as one, and run towards the fence. But this time they do not celebrate.

 

They scream for the man’s blood.

 

Players protest and scuffles begin on field, but off field, absolute bedlam rules as the match pales in insignificance to the events that surround it. More police are called as the fences that separate these mortal enemies bend and groan under the pressure of the masses, whose war cries have passed the level known as ferocity. Their rage now has a hunger all its own, that can only be satisfied with its own pound of flesh.

 

They greedily await confrontation.

 

The frantic efforts to keep peace ultimately fail as the fence that disjoins them crashes down spelling the end of stability for all. The two halves of the arena rush into battle as hungers are abruptly satisfied. Red and blue merge to become a sickening magenta-coloured orgy of violence as opposing ideologies and weapons clash. Chairs are ripped out of the ground, flung and then make contact with faces, crushing noses, cracking jaws and smashing sculls.

 

Soon enough, the players and officials realise the carnage that now surrounds them and call the game off, but not before thousands of crazed, bloody supporters hurdle the fences and begin to invade the pitch, seeking retribution. Like a swarm of murderous bees they stream onto the grass as green is superseded by reds and blues, no longer clashing but now a confederated force with a unified objective.

 

The teammates, deprived of their safety barrier, glimpse at each other, then at the outstretched hands and murderous eyes of what were once their loyal subjects and rush for the safety of the tunnels beneath the ground. As they run for their lives, they take one last quick glance at the defoliation surrounding them and realise that what started out as a game has turned into cold-blooded war.