Standing behind the rusty goal, I heard the cacophony of cheers reverberating through the schoolyard. My heart started racing as today, I was one step closer to the final.
I didn’t start playing soccer until grade 10. Despite being a popular sport, soccer isn’t as easy as it sounds. Fatigue and soreness became my close friends who accompanied me home every day. Yet I was able to overcome them by bearing in mind the fact that muscles grow when they’re pushed to the limits and working harder. My previous involvement with basketball also helped me to shape a signature speedy playstyle and eventually to be voted as a team captain.
However, being an athletic girl was also my source of torment. I guess because I fail to align with the traditional and irresistible beauty of Vietnamese women. Their elegant appearance is uniquely praised in Ao dai, the long silk tunic which is said to “cover everything but hide nothing” as it promotes every single feminine curve. My appearance, on the other hand, makes my fellow countrymen stare at me and shake their heads with an evident disapproval. My skin is burned. My veins are visible, and my calves are big. During the warm-up, a conversation among the audiences brought me back to the reality.
“Just wondering why those girls signed up for soccer. They’re too weak for these sports,” the guy standing behind me commented with such a sarcastic voice. “Yeah! I’m telling you. They’ll make fun of themselves. Just imagine how slow they run on the field,” the other suppressed his giggle. Gritting my teeth in silence, I burned. The whistle went off. As my team bunched together, I knew some of them had heard those unpleasant lines. “Maybe they’re right! Soccer is never for us.” One minute, we’re on the top of the world, being so ready for the game. Then the next, we’re at rock-bottom, being a bundle of nerves.
Taking a deep breath, I asked everyone to calm down and focus on the match instead. We employed a passing and moving strategy and took over the pitch. Yet no goal was scored. In the last minutes of the game, I could hear my body signal of low battery. But whenever I felt like stopping, the voices of two guys echoed inside my head, reminding me how close we were to the victory. So, this time, I sped up, letting out everything I had.
Facing a one-versus-one situation, I dribbled forward slowly to draw the goalie out of the box. My right arm was held back for balance; my left arm was flung out for power. Holding my breath, I sent the last-minute goal to the net. Not until the whistle was blown did I become aware of the thunderous applause. As my heart was bursting with fireworks, I ran toward my teammates, sunk in an indescribable happiness. Living in the world where beauty is heavily defined in aesthetic means, I used to try undermining my identity and conform myself to these standards. But soccer has taught me to fully embrace the uniqueness of who I am. No matter what social prejudices are placed on us, every woman will always have means to express their beauty.