This story, by Palestinian author Ameer Hamad, first ran in our Fall 2021 FOOTBALL issue.
By Ameer Hamad
My brother and I turned the shopping center into a football pitch, so that the minute our mother stepped into one of the stores, we would set off running and passing our little ball between us, slipping past the defenders with their shopping bags as we headed for the goal, which we had not yet spotted, but which we would find when a security guard would suddenly appear to take the ball away from us, and then we would score a beautiful goal between his feet, after which we would leap up and down in celebration, along with the mannequins in their glass cages.
Our friends called us the golden duo, because we played together in harmony, just like Majid and Yassin in the cartoons, and when we passed the ball, we could turn the players on the other team into shoppers whose hands were full of heavy bags.
We joined our city’s club, and we rose up through the different age groups until finally we were in the last one, the one just before the first team.
The competition was ferocious among the players, and there were only two spots open on the first team. The distance between me and my brother Majid was growing larger, and my limited talent, plus my glassy body that was riddled with injuries, didn’t allow me to stay in the golden duo as Yassin. My brother was promoted, and another player took my place alongside him. I ended my series of injuries by tearing my ACL, which led to a knee operation, after which I thought it better to stop playing.
In the first matches that my brother Majid played on the first team, he sat on the bench until the very end of the match, when the coach put him in along with Yassin. My brother’s team was one goal behind, and so the golden duo started running and passing the ball between them, turning the stadium into a shopping center, and, when they reached the goal, Yassin passed the ball to Majid, and he put it between the goalkeeper’s feet with a smooth touch, scoring the equalizer.
When I leapt for joy at the goal, my injury gave a painful throb. I sat back down, feeling—as I watched the golden duo celebrate—the scar from my operation, which had sunk its path deep into my knee, so that I was imprisoned, like a mannequin, inside my glass cage.
Ameer Hamad was born in Jerusalem in 1992. He holds a degree in computer science from Birzeit University. In 2019, he was awarded the Al-Qattan prize in two categories for his first two books: Gigi and Ali’s Rabbit, a collection of short stories, and I Searched for Their Keys in the Locks.
Translated by M Lynx Qualey