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A Special Gift

Photo by Barry Weatherall on Unsplash
by Jared Ong (P6 2019)

 

The stadium was sizzling with excitement. It was the finals between Nanyang Primary School and Clementi Primary School. We had been rivals for the past five years. Now that it was my graduation year in Nanyang Primary School, we were all determined to win this match for the school. We eyed our opponents and determined in our minds to give them no mercy. This was the Inter-school soccer match and we were poised to win the championship. I was presented the ‘Man of the Match’ title last year and wanted to reclaim the honour again.

 

“Beep!” The whistle for the kick-off resounded in the air. The match was in full swing. Our defender passed the ball to the midfielder, who punted it to Mike, our striker. Mike was my best friend and also one of the star players in the team. I knew he was able to score a goal. Little did I know that he had lost control and kicked the ball to the opponent, who dribbled it deftly across the entire length of the field and scored their opening goal. Hope that was building up inside me burst like a fully pumped balloon. My blood boiled with rage as I stormed up to Mike and reprimanded him for his negligence.

 

“Sorry . . . I was not vigilant enough. I won’t do it again,” Mike stuttered an apology. Soon, the match resumed. When Mike was about to pass the ball to me, who was in a position to shoot into the opponent’s goal, he tripped over the ball with a loud thud. The scene spanned across eternity and everything played like a slow-motion movie.

 

Thud! The resounding crash of Mike’s body hitting the grass patch sent a nauseating sensation to my stomach. The opposing team mocked and jeered at us. I was furious. Mike was obviously not paying attention! Why was he so beside himself? Mike suffered bruises on his legs and hands. He even suffered a few scratches. The coach pulled Mike aside and had to bench him while sending in a substitute.

 

At that moment, it was half-time and all the players had a five-minute rest. I turned to glance at the bench, but Mike was gone. Where could he be now? I wondered. However, a large part of me told myself that I should not bother.

 

“Good for you, Mike,” I muttered under my breath sarcastically. “Who told you to be so careless? Can’t even pass a ball properly!”

 

I headed to the locker to get a drink to quench my insatiable thirst. Some said a good friend was like a special gift but I disagreed with that statement at that time.

 

The moment I opened my locker, I could see a cup with the words ‘World’s Best Friend’ embellished on it. All of a sudden, an incident floated into my mind. Before I had become a prominent member of the soccer club, Mike was already on the team. We were not only friends, but were also ardent football fans. We supported the same team, Liverpool, and also played soccer during recess. When Mike found out that I was not in the soccer team with him, he was so devastated and pleaded with the coach to give me a place. He even requested to give up his own place for me. Finally, the coach agreed and allowed me to join the team. Mike bought me a mug that had three words printed on it — ‘World’s Best Friend’. I still remembered what he had said to me that day when he presented me with the mug.

 

“We are best friends. We will always overcome difficulties together. That’s what friends are for! This is a gift from me to show that our friendship will last forever.” At that point of time, tears trickled down my cheeks. Mike had done so much for me and sacrificed so much, but I had taken all these for granted. How could I be so uncaring?

 

At that moment, I could hear sobbing coming from a corner of the locker room. Without a second thought, I instantly knew it was coming from Mike. An idea came into my mind. I held up the mug that Mike had given me and walked up to Mike. Mike looked up at me with surprise.

 

“We are best friends. We will always overcome difficulties together. That’s what friends are for! This is a gift from me to show that our friendship will last forever.” I repeated Mike’s words from that momentous day. Mike instantly knew what I was trying to do and immediately forgave me as he grinned from ear to ear.

 

“Now, go out and show all of them what Mike Tan is made of!” I gave Mike a friendly punch on his arm. We jogged out of the locker room together, energised.

 

I realised that all Mike needed was just a little push. Mike got back into shape the instant the second-half whistle was blown. He stunned everyone by scoring a goal every five minutes. However, the opposing team was also catching up. There was only five more minutes of play time left and we needed to cherish ever second that we had. I passed the ball to the midfielder who lobbed it to Mike. I had faith in him. The tension hung in the air. Mike swiftly dribbled the ball past all the defenders and in a quick motion, flicked the ball into the goal. The goalie was caught wrong footed and did not have the chance to stop the ball. Once the ball floated past the goal line, the entire team whooped in joy. The coach went up to Mike and presented him a ‘Man of the Match’ badge and congratulated him. However, Mike simply took hold of the badge and presented it to me. I was taken aback.

 

“This badge belongs to you, buddy. Without your encouragement, I would not have helped the team. This badge definitely belongs to you.”

 

My eyes brimmed with tears. I had not expected this from Mike. I graciously accepted the badge and shouted out, “Everyone! Mike carried us to victory again!” Everyone crowded around Mike and chanted his name in unison.

 

From that day onwards, I realised that friends were the most special gifts. Having Mike as a friend was the best thing I ever had. Whenever I took a look at the badge or the mug that Mike had given me, this incident would replay in my mind instantly.
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