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Karlie Simmonds, 27 Dec '12

Despite him getting up early, the park was busy. Sean looked up and down the green. He'd chosen to enter at Dacres Road so he'd could get the best vantage point of the park.

Full of the usual daily dog walkers, Mums pushing babies in buggies, the odd pensioner walking slowly and there, where his focus was most concerned, someone up even earlier than him. He let out a huge sigh.

He needed to practice today more than ever. At training his shot had been a little off. Coach said it didn't matter but it did to him. Football was his life. He wanted to play for England one day. It would take time, dedication and practice said his coach. No distractions. "You have as good a chance as any of the other boys here Sean, but you have to be dedicated" He nodded. He was. He played all the time. When he wasn't playing, he was thinking about playing.

He heaved his bag on his shoulder and made his way towards the goals. he decided he would sit beside the goals and psyche the person out so they left. As he made his way across the park he studied the solitary hooded figure, some young kid, tirelessly taking shots at the goal. They set the ball up and went out it from different angles, shot at the net, a quick run forward, stop and then a jog forward to collect the ball to reset the shot. Even this far away he could see they had a powerful shot. Left footed like him.
Inside him that little competitive voice rose. You're better though, it said. He smiled. He knew. There was something about the boys angle that told him the goal would be saved if there was a goalie in place.
He sat a few yards away, pulled his water out of his bag and took a slow, steady swig. He would soon enough be noticed and the other boy would bugger off. Four or five shots later and he was getting restless. They hadn't taken their eyes off the ball at all. Setting up and taking shot after shot. Sean wondered why were they doing the same goal again and again. Maybe they'd had a bad match and were trying to tidy up their aim, but as he'd noticed earlier, no matter which way they set the ball up, their angle was a little off. That ball would be saved, no doubt about it. He watched one more attempt and his impatience got the better of him.
"That shot would be saved" he said aloud.

The figure stopped. Sean took a swig of water. For the first time, the boy had become aware there was anyone else in the park. His hand went up to his hood and pulled it down. Instantly Sean sat bolt upright. It wasn't a boy at all, it was a girl. "What?" she said. She had red cheeks and her hair was sticking up at the front.

She looked like Deans sister. He'd seen her a few times after training. Once she'd bumped into him as he came out of the changing room and Dean had told him to watch out. Sean had looked at him and then at the sister who rolled her eyes and smiled at him. Dean thought he was a tough guy. He wasn't.

"What did you say?" said the girl and Sean left the memory of training and returned his thoughts to the park.

"Your shot is off" he shrugged.

She furrowed her brows and picked the ball up. Sean watched as she stood for a second looking at the goals then over at him. She threw the ball at him. "show me" she said and stood back.

Sean caught the ball with his left hand, he didn't have time to play games, but maybe if he showed her she would piss off. He stood up and walked towards the goals. "you're shooting from the tip of your foot, you need to shoot a little to the side, like this" he took a shot and it went in. He smiled smugly and was surprised to see her laughing.

"I meant by you going in goal" she laughed. "I'm going to shoot" she put her thumb on her chest, "and you're going to save" she pointed a finger at him.

He looked at her. They were closer now and he was sure she was Dean's sister. What was her name again, he couldn't remember. If he knew her name she would maybe bugger off, surely she must remember who he was. Dean must have told her about him. She stood waiting.

He sighed heavily and walked towards the goals, ball under his arm. He turned slowly. She nodded readily at him. She looked determined. He would treat her like one of the boys, if that's what she wanted.

He threw the ball out and in that split second where he expected her to line the ball up she took a shot and it sailed past him into the back of the net. He looked at it rolling on the grass behind him.

"It went in" she shouted, "show me again what i'm doing wrong"

He pulled the ball back with his foot and kicked it out to her, this time she stopped it with her foot and lined it up. He looked at her, but she was focusing on the ball.

He thought she'd run left but go to kick right. He watched as she turned away and took a run towards the ball. His heart quickened as her foot touched the edge of the ball and she shot left. Bam! Into the back of the net. He looked back towards her. She was standing with her arms folded. She was smiling, "I think I'm doing okay, don't you Sean?"

She did know who he was. He wondered if Dean had set him up. Where they watching from the side of the park. He looked around the park. He saw nothing.

"Sasha isn't it?" he remembered now. It was Sasha, her name was Sasha. He smiled. She nodded. "okay, maybe you're not so bad"

She smiled, put her hood up and began to walk away. "I'll put today's date in my diary" she called over her shoulder.

He watched her go. She walked across the field and didn't turn around once. He went to pick up the ball and began taking shots at the goal. Looking from time to time back at the Dacres Road entrance to see if she had returned.

After five shots. He felt he'd done enough and packed up his things. Quickly making his way across the park, he wonders if he'd be able to catch up with her.