Vignesh sometimes felt alone and forgotten as he stood in the goalkeeper’s box, watching the players run downfield toward the other team’s territory. But he knew this was the only place where he felt right, where he was solely responsible for the outcome of the game. As the flow of the action returned in his direction, Vignesh first felt a quick thrill as the mass of players reversed direction like a school of fish. Then, he felt a surge of tension: they were heading straight toward him. What was he to do? And then, by the time the opposition’s forwards came in striking range, his mind cleared and calmed, and he became only a series of instant, well-timed actions, responding smoothly, with no interfering thoughts at all.
The mass of players ran first to the left, then to the right, like a school of fish, as passes were made and relayed or intercepted. Farthest left, in the goalkeeper’s box, Vignesh shifted from foot to foot as if preparing to leap in either direction for the ball. The two backs hovered on the sides, careful to keep out of the goalkeeper’s line of vision. The opposing strikers rushed onward toward the Red Devils’ backfield. Murphy passed to Franklin, who passed to Dakari. Dakari ran skillfully between the Red Devils’ defenders. He went straight toward Vignesh, who bent his knees and set his feet.