Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Slow Motion Agony

Just at the instant when a soccer tackle turns painful, a “slow motion” effect occurs on the victim’s perceptions of real-time events, which effect starts from the demobilizing tackles’ contact and through an awkward fall to the ground. No wonder injuries are replayed in slow motion.

Our opponent was a powerful gang of Moi University (Yala Campus) youths, who approach soccer like University of Nairobi would approach anti-riot police. And they run like maniacs. And they tackle hard. Inspired/instructed to ”miss the ball, but don’t miss the player,” they earned two red cards but this was not enough to quench their fire. They beat us six goals to two.

(Look, we were freaked out to near madness. All the violence and speed disoriented us. We play touch football, we aspire to Spain’s tiki-taka style; not England’s rugby style of soccer. )

A soccer tackle gone bad is a horrible moment of sharp and heightened clarity. The tackle already hurts but I can feel in advance what that upcoming contact with the ground will feel like when it happens. There’s not enough time or space in mid air to do anything much about it, besides to recognize and appreciate the fact for all it’s worth. I may try to dilute certain doom with a roll or may just slam me down on the grass and lie still quick. It is a too-vivid agony of hyper-alertness, for which everything else seems to be on hold for all that is at stake: safety, whole limbs, consciousness and sometimes, life itself. Unfortunately, this world has some people in it who tackle like that.

Happily, most times following these accidents, I rise to my feet, emerge with some bruises and dirt, check for sprains. The game continues; I am less inclined to try to dribble past such maniacs at the next opening. A simple pass to a nearby teammate will have to suffice. If such an opponent gets to close too fast, blast the ball far away. It is always a safe time to play safe.
Some brawlers disguised in soccer wear are not decent enough to care what preservation rights your ankle joint is entitled to. Occasionally, a zealous opponent will corner you, flat out sweep you off your feet with a powerful sweep of his own foot, a take-no-hostages sweep, ruthlessly and spectacularly executed, comprehensively covering the entire span of his STRIKE zone. TRIP! Then it’s slow motion again for you the victim as, first footing, then balance, are lost, but alas! Momentum endures still. Pain, horror, surprise and fear, divided in time between the impact that’s just happened and the crash that’s just about to happen, frozen within a tangibly fluid fragment of aerial suspension not long to last, whose end is pain, and who knows what else?

Through it all, a calm and aloof awareness persists, cool and final: “I may be falling but I’m not dead YET.” This reassuring instinctual certainty makes us think fast, try to control the fall.

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