Pitching the Tenth
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We might never find out what really went through Shlok Jain's young mind or whether the 15-year-old even briefly comprehended the severe consequences of his risque maneuver. This was after all the most memorable day of his school football career. Of his budding life. A day where his school, Campion, stood on the cusp of ultimate glory. And a day where they could bring an end to Don Bosco's unrelenting hold on the most coveted prize in Mumbai school sports—the boys' under-16 trophy.
Going into their clash against Bombay Scottish, the equation was pretty straightforward for Jain and his team. Win and be crowned champions. With the score now reading 2-2 and just minutes left on the clock, the desperation for the crucial game-changing goal had reached fever pitch. It wasn't going to matter how or where it came from.
And as Jain saw his teammate's overhead pass land closer to the oncoming Bombay Scottish goalkeeper than him, he knew another chance had gone abegging. The ball was too high to connect with his feet and too far for him to stretch his neck out for a header. Rather than give up, the Campion striker did the unthinkable.
Clenching the fingers on his right hand to form a fist, he tried punching the ball into the net instead. There was no question of there being a benefit of doubt here. Neither for his intention nor his action. Jain, who had scored the initial goal for Campion, was red-carded and had to saunter off the field, lonely and dejected. It wasn't quite the heroic exit that he had dreamed off. But you couldn't help but feel for the boy. You couldn't blame Shlok for being desperate either.
The final whistle went off not long after. The deadlock had not been broken. Campion's dreams of lifting the trophy now no longer rested in their hands.
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