– Unknown author –
(the story is true, only the names are changed)
Quietly, as always, in order not to disturb her child’s peace, Srećko’s mom Svetlana entered the room. Seeing the two of us together, she whispered quietly:
– Guys, what are you talking about in secret? – she jokingly interrupted our conversation with mild voice.
– Mom, I won’t be able to go to school tomorrow – Srećko mumbled in half-voice.
– Yes, as usual, you got chicken pox for the second time and your granny died for the fourth time – believing that Srećko was joking, Svetlana referred to excuses he used to tell his teacher.
– Svetlana, let’s go to our room. This is an important moment for world’s football. Let’s leave and allow Srećko to have some rest – I interrupted the communication between Srećko and Svetlana in order to avoid Srećko saying something that would make his mom angry.
I held Svetlana with both hands and „pushed“ her out of Srećko’s room. She was confused and tried to turn back few times, but I prevented her because I wanted to tell her the good news as soon as possible. When we entered the room, I „parked“ her in the armchair, after steering her through the hallway.
– Look, Svetlana, you know that I never asked from you more than you could give for stability of our family. I know that sometimes I was not listening to you, and I should have. For instance, when he had that high fever. You wanted to take him to a doctor, and I said that we would take him the next day, and that he should toughen up, that his body needs to fight the fever. Now I know what might have happened, but it didn’t. Thank God…
– The doctor asked you the next day whether you ever heard of medicine – she interrupted me ironically.
– I know, I learned my lesson. And even then when I had conflict with school principal because Srećko, who just started his first grade, asked to be in the same class with Mića. The two of them were inseparable in kindergarten. You were saying that it didn’t matter what class he would be in. Now I see that you were right. I would not change his class for any other! Great classmates, great teacher… – I got excited.
– Yes, I remember how hard you were fighting for that. For a second I thought that it was you, and not Srećko, who went to kindergarten with Mića – she joked.
– You just keep on joking. I am serious. And then, when that older boy was bullying him, and when I wanted to teach him a lesson and give him a good beating in front of all the kids from school. You said that it was none of my business and that the teacher would solve it, and that Srećko should learn not to attack anyone first, but to be ready to defend himself when he is attacked… – I quoted her words.
– I was right. When he stood up for himself and when psychologist got involved, nobody messed with him anymore. And just remember how that kid got to like him when he saw you at Marakana, at a Red Star game… – she wanted to continue, and I choked for a moment.
She reminded me how big is love for Red Star that I instilled in Srećko. I was showing him photos of world club champions, footages from Bari and Tokyo, I took him to the stadium to hear the roar from the North stand that would make you shiver. Well…
Svetlana always considered going to a stadium a waste of time, and going to a place where people who had nowhere else to vent out were gathering. For me, she was always saying that I knew nothing about football, and that I do not belong among fans, wondering how I turned from a neutral and indifferent observer into a fanatical fan overnight. I remember she was telling our neighbors how five years ago, after hearing a TV quiz question „Mourinho is famous Portuguese…“, I said „Explorer!“, and that today I keep explaining to neighbors that Chelsea should have played against Real with two forwards in the first half. And I should not even mention that she still keeps copy of a betting ticket in which I correctly guessed scores of ten games. She took it because she was sick of me showing off as if I were a library member from Radovan III. It is good that I have never shown her the ones where I did not guess a single game. If I have, she would not trust me enough even to send me to a bakery to buy some bread.
But, I exactly know when I became interested in sports. It was when the company I worked in was shut down, and all the employees were fired. I had plenty of free time. I could not find another job, because who needs an ambitious employee who is in his forties. Football became my vent, it took my mind off my problems, it was relieving me from stress. Srećko was a part of all of that.
Svetlana’s salary could not cover everything:
– Look, Svetlana, you mentioned sneakers. I know how we can buy them for Srećko… – I wanted to continue.
– We do not have to. You know what his current sneakers mean to him, he became top scorer in his league wearing them. He said he would not change them until they are fully torn – she interrupted me.
– He said that because he knows we have hard time making ends meet. And speaking of money, we pay the monthly membership fee, and we could…
– Out of the question! We will be paying the membership fee like everybody else! – Svetlana was adamant.
– Do you know that in Partizan there is no membership fee? – I asked.
– What do we have to do with Partizan? Maybe there is no membership fee in Red Star either! – she said surly.
– No, there isn’t. But nobody from Red Star invited Srećko! – I said quickly.
– Neither did anybody from Partizan! – she said.
– Well they did! Tomorrow he is going to a practice at Partizan! – I finally got to the point.
– Sava, don’t get carried away. What Partizan, what Red Star? Let him finish school, graduate from university and get a job, instead of having the hard life that we have.
– Please, Svetlana, let him at least try. It will cost us nothing. And we saw that Argentinian kid on TV yesterday. He is currently worth 12 Million Euros. You saw what he can do with the ball! – I was saying excitingly.
– And what if he gets injured, and if, God forbid, he breaks his leg, how much will his life be worth then? – she asked fearfully.
– Don’t look at it like that. These days everything is cured quickly. Players have games every three days, and nothing is wrong with them. Medicine has advanced… – I wanted to continue.
– Look who’s talking! Don’t let me call Srećko’s doctor now! – she said angrily.
– You are joking again, and I am being serious. This is an opportunity for Srećko to live better even without graduating from university. I don’t see that people with university degrees live well in our country. And he can easily go to live abroad by playing football.
– You are wrong, Sava, listen to me… Oh, ok, ok… Go. But don’t come back crying from practice tomorrow, and on the day after with an F from his math test.
– Aye, aye, captain! – I saluted and was happy as a kid when given a chocolate.
I rushed to Srećko’s room. He was almost asleep.
– Son, are you sleeping? No! Let me just tell you this, and you can sleep peacefully. Actually, I forgot to tell you that Partizan played in the finals of the Champions league in 1966 against famous Real Madrid. What a great team they had, how great they played…
(to be continued…)
Version of this text in Serbian