It was hot. End of the season. The hissing sound of cooling spray behind our goal.
Fifth minute: first shot at target from our opponent, and it was coming from the left. It was a reflex. I shot my hand against the ball and spent the next ten minutes whimpering in pain. I was delirious! Lucky for me, the guys were defending well so I didn’t have a lot of work to do, and if the ball did get to me, I managed to save it without any further pain.
It was a goalless draw. In the 60th minute we were awarded a penalty. Tremendous chance. Vlasta Kožíšek wanted to hit the ball with such force it looked like he wanted to destroy the net, but he kicked up a piece of turf. It was so embarrassing! He almost broke his foot and the ball just slowly rolled towards the Budějovice goalie. And bam! they launched a counter-attack and scored!
It was the end of our hopes.
At that moment, I started praying: “Please, ref, blow the final whistle.”
Moaning, I kept hypnotising the referee with a stare, willing him to put the whistle to his lips and end my suffering. The home team charged forward one more time in the last minute and there was a direct shot at me from up close. I pulled my left hand away instinctively. It was the first and last time in my life I ducked away from the ball. But I couldn’t stand any more pain.
We went home, I survived one more night and on Monday morning we went straight to the hospital.
“How did this happen?” the doctor in the white lab coat asked as he started typing the entry report on an old typewriter. He was sitting on a rolling chair and every time he asked me a question, he pushed himself off and slid to the side so that he could look into my face.
"Playing football,” I replied.
“Okay, describe it to me please,” the doctor said, rolling back to the table in his chair so he could start typing.
I turned red. “Well,” I stammered, “you know… It was on Friday, at practice…”
“What?! On Friday? Why did you wait so long to come here?”
“Because of the match, doctor,” I answered guilelessly. “We played in České Budějovice yesterday. I had to go.”
“WHAT?!” The doctor started turning bright red.
I got a good dressing down and a splint for a fortnight. And the hospital staff didn’t treat me extra compassionately either. “This can’t happen again, Petr! One more time and you better find another hospital to take you in. We don’t want to deal with this here.”
Luckily the swelling subsided soon and I could go running into the goal again.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 35
What do you catch with a wooden hand? …
First time in the national team. Well, almost. …