It was the last game of the day.
I saw him get hurt. His frail, 9-year old body almost made a full tumble. I thought for a moment he’d break a bone. I saw him cry but his coach screamed, “Prince! Prince, we need on you on the defense!” So he got up and made an urgent block to prevent a goal but the game was too intense. There was a lot of pushing and hovering. The opposing team was good and quite physical. My son’s team was good and quite gentle. I saw his tears flow while playing. There was another move that hurt his teammate. He pushed forward to help. The goalkeeper watched helplessly. The other defender made a block but the referee called the foul. It was a free kick for the opponent. My son shook his head, raised his arms in frustration. At this time, the goalkeeper was crying, screaming and protesting a seemingly bad call. But everyone took their places including my son, who was the last man. He and the goalkeeper had tears streaming down their cheeks. As the free kick was made, it sailed straight into the net just inches above my son’s head. And after ten seconds, it was over. They lost, 1-0. The goalkeeper and my son could not contain their tears. (I wanted to cry with them!) They cried, really cried on the field. The coach grabbed my son’s arm and shouted, “I told you not to cry!” I approached them at this point and took my son, “He was hurt coach. It started from that.” Everyone tried to pacify him but he couldn’t stop crying, gasping for air. Even I could not make him stop. So I just let him be. Everyone had lunch.
After having lunch, I waited for everyone to leave. It was me, my son and the soccer field. He looked at me with questions in his eyes. “Why did you cry?,” I asked. He couldn’t answer. Instead, his eyes filled with tears again. I took his hand, “I know why you cried. You were hurt. But no one saw you got hurt. I saw it. But you got up because Coach called your name. You got up because you wanted to help the team. And then your direct opponent was quite physical. He hurt some of your teammates unintentionally. They got hurt. Then the referee made a bad call. You saw Sam get angry and cry too. You felt that, didn’t you. And it added to your hurt that a free kick was to be made by the same person who hurt you. He won the game for his team while you and Sam couldn’t block the shot. You’re hurt and angry and pissed. I know why you cried. Am I correct?” He just sobbed again. I took him in my arms and explained how life sometimes has some bad calls, how you got to get up and just go, how you can’t control the world but how you can control your reactions.
We sat for awhile staring at the field, quiet until he said, “Let’s go home, Mom.”