I still remember my visit to Oostende, a small town in Belgium, with school staff and students in Year 8. We went there to play in a football tournament against teams from all over Europe. To me, this trip is unforgettable because I had such a great time and I felt free from the troubles of school and life in general.
Oostende was a pleasant town on the coast of Belgium. Unfortunately, the sea was deemed hazardous so we weren’t allowed on the sandy beach. But that didn’t seem to affect the holiday. The nightlife was fantastic. The staff that came with us were Mr Fletcher, Mr Fuller and Mr Curry and they let us stay out until midnight. I think they let us stay out late so that they could get drunk! Every night after dinner I would go out and buy chips and coke. I hated the food in the hotel, infact I hated the entire hotel. When I told this to Mr Curry he said, ‘what do you expect for two hundred pounds’? We often went to the arcades and played games. Once we went to play pool in a club and I proved too good for my friends. In the end we got chucked out of the club for being too noisy.
The teachers often fined us. We got fined for things like swearing or forgetting something. Thankfully I didn’t get fined too much but my friend Andrew got fined the most because he kept on farting!
The football tournament was held in a leisure centre and it was held over three days. There were nineteen teams in the tournament and we were drawn in Group A with the stronger teams. We played well and after intense competition, ended the group in third place. This was a remarkable achievement for us as we were expecting to lose hopelessly to every team. I think we did this well because the holiday also allowed the team to bond with each other and great team spirit was created. By finishing in third, we had given ourselves an outside chance of making it to the final.
The next day was the playoffs. We had to win four matches to make it into the final. We won the first three matches 3-0, with me getting a hat trick in the second match, and managed to scrape through to the final with a narrow victory over Chiswick United in the final game. We were ecstatic and jubilant about making it to the final but out coaches told us not to get arrogant and boastful.
The final kicked off at three o’clock and proved to be a close encounter. The match was like a chess match; every move or pass had to be precise- there was no room for mistakes. Our star striker, Sanjay, had given us the lead thanks to an exquisite volley but a blunder by Sid, our keeper, meant we went to half time with the scores level. The scores stayed the same until the ninetieth minute. I collected a pass from Sanjay and he made a run towards the goal. I played a through ball into his path. The defenders didn’t move, as they were appealing for offside but the decision wasn’t given. He was onside. My heart was in my mouth. He was on his own with only the goalkeeper to beat. He deceived the keeper by pretending to shoot. All he had to do was to go around him. He did but just as he was about to shoot the keeper brought him down. The referee blew his whistle. He had given us a penalty in the final minute.
Sanjay was our regular penalty taker but he got injured when the keeper brought him down. The team gathered near the penalty spot to discuss who should take it. The team was panicking and, as captain, I decided that I was the only person suitable to take the penalty. I was quietly confident of scoring because I enjoyed being in pressure situations. I placed the ball on the spot and stepped backwards measuring my run up. I looked up at the keeper and he snarled at me. He said a few words to put me off. It worked. Suddenly I wasn’t so confident anymore. My heart was beating like a drum and my legs felt like jelly. The goal was shrinking every time I looked at it. I tried to pull myself together. I picked a part of the goal to aim for and said a prayer. After putting my head down I started my run up and kicked the ball with the toe of my lucky Nike boots. The ball spent an eternity in the air.
‘Yeesssss’ the crowd shouted. The ball went in. The keeper dived the wrong way. I had won the tournament for the team. In a moment of sheer jubilation, I took off my shirt and ran around the pitch.
As I reel back the memories in my head I still remember how I felt that Sunday afternoon. It was one of my proudest ever moments but there was an another moment that I was equally as proud of. On the final night of the holiday, the teachers called us to the hotel for a meeting. They told us they had really enjoyed this holiday and were really impressed by the way we had played. Furthermore they said that they used the money they collected for fines to buy trophies for us. There were four trophies to acquire, and I won the player’s player award. This was an immense honour for me as I was voted for by my fellow counterparts.
I had a really valuable experience on this trip. I got to know people that I didn’t really know well and became more responsible for myself. I became more independent and gained maturity as the holiday went on.