Chapter 14 | Stress Eating
The Round of 16 is one of the biggest tournaments in the word cup. It’s second step every team has to make just to have the chance to enter the top thirty-two teams to fully compete in the world-cup final. The group stage, the first round of finals, was held three months ago.
The United States Men’s national soccer team was able to get through the group stage, which made them proceed to the deadly round of 16, the knock out round. There are two legs* in the round and in the end, scores of the two will be added up to see who wins. Only eight teams then proceed to the quarter-finals, the next step.
Mark’s team had gotten the win by one point in the first leg last month, so the upcoming second leg will decide if they advance or not. The series of practice matches they had experienced about a month ago as well were very helpful and raised the heat in their systems to warm-up for the actual first leg. So they succeeded.
Mark was especially nervous for the second leg upcoming. Because not only was it was the finals for the knockout round. It would also mean the stadium getting more crowded than usual, more cameras, and more media.
The matches would happen two days from now, so he did his best to condition himself for the games, trying to calm down the blood harshly pumping inside his heart.
Elizabeth was excited about the games. She would go tomorrow! The entire second leg would happen for four days, and she was focused on watching a match right now. The ticket Hayden gave to her was only good for a day and it was perfect since it was scheduled on the last day, which showcased the match between their national team and another excellent team.
Right after the broadcast match finished, she excitedly headed over to her closet and tried to pick out her clothes. She asked Megan about it yesterday and told her the news about the tickets. She didn’t seem interested in the whole thing, but supported her happiness nonetheless. In the end, the only response she could get for her clothing was.
“Wear the team colors?”
And after Megan said that, she quickly hung up with the excuse of having more work to complete. Elizabeth, knowing her best friend, knew that it bored her talking about the topic and she really didn’t understand anything. So she settled on not asking Megan anymore and fending for herself in her fashion.
By the end of the day, Elizabeth decided on light blue pants with a simple white t-shirt layered with a thin blue button-up. She prepared her ponytail in a red cap to go with the season, and with that simple selection; she was happy.
Elizabeth then headed out. She made her way to the bus station to ride one on her way to the stadium. Hayden and she had made plans on how to go about the entire game before. They decided they would arrive separately and meet up at the stadium lobby to enter together. She was looking forward to the games today, and she hoped their team would win. It was a huge thing to win in the round of 16. She believed they were doing pretty well to get this far; she didn’t get to see their team’s last round, but she was confident in their skills.
The ride wasn’t too long, and she arrived relatively early before the whole thing started. She was about an hour early, which was what they had planned. It was the best time for them to buy snacks before the game when the line wasn’t too long and find their seats with no problem.
Elizabeth entered the glass doors into the place and wandered around the brightly lit lobby halls. It was her first time actually seeing a game live, so it amazed her at how many people there already were chatting and making their way to the different parts of the stadium.
She saw a familiar figure, wearing jeans and a team t-shirt, by the snacks counter. She made her way closer and directly made her way beside the man she noticed.
“Good Morning!” She excitedly exclaimed. “It’s good you lined up first, it’s getting longer by the minute.”
“Yeah, It’s always good to run here first,” Hayden replied.
Elizabeth nodded in agreement and then inspected the t-shirt Hayden donned. She was immediately jealous.
“Where did you get this! It looks so cool, ” she said, pointing at white t-shirt, lined with a blue collar, complete with the team and brand logos.
“I bought it online before the game. It was expensive, but it was all so worth it,” Hayden confidently popped the shirt, showing it off.
” I gotta get my hands on one of those the next time.”
With that brief conversation, the two then lined up, silently expressing their different feelings about the upcoming game. Soon after, it was already their turn to order. So they got two cheeseburgers, two drinks, and fries to share. They figured it was going to be a long game and stress eating would clearly happen while it went on.
They made their way to find their seats. It was placed in the center section which neither of them had expected. Hayden tried to act calm, but on the inside he was repetitively thanking Mark for giving them such good seats. Elizabeth was clearly happy knowing this and cheered around, soon making Hayden laugh. It was great because they could see the entire game properly and were also close to the field at the same time.
Cheers resounded through the whole stadium, each side supporting their own teams. Elizabeth and Hayden also joined the cheering that sounded withing their area. They had fun and laughed as they screamed the team’s name and motto repeatedly.
Thirty minutes before the game officially started, the two teams started pouring into the field. As they entered, the cheers got louder. Elizabeth, caught up in the mood, screamed with the lot. The excitement caught up to the two as they continued to scream even louder. The two teams did drills in their respective corners with the audience screaming loud in the background.
The pre-match warm-ups were exhilarating. They knew adrenaline was building up by the second within the players. Knowing this, Elizabeth felt it with them. And it was clear. The adrenaline, anxiety, excitements, and the competitiveness. The feeling floated all around the stadium.
Hayden beside her was sipping his drink, scanning the field. And just like that, time passed and the game officially started. They tossed the coin in the air, and it was all so nerve-wracking.
The whistle sounded, the screams were deafening, and the ball is kicked off. The match began.
The ball was bounced back and forth between the two teams and each time the ball got close to a goal Elizabeth loudly shouted a quick yell. Luckily, their team’s goal keeper was good. She stared at the ball constantly and forgot about being curious about the player’s faces. She only remembered the huge numbers on their backs, which was the only thing visible to her this far.
Soon later, the very first goal was scored. It was by their team and the crowd went wild! Elizabeth was especially happy for the team and Hayden cheering on beside her.
“Whoo! That’s my man!” He said, making Elizabeth laugh. Hayden turned to her, noticing the laughter and said,
“He’s the one I told you about.” Hayden pointed.
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked in confusion.
“The one who went to the cafe. Actually, he’s also the one who gave me these tickets.” Hayden explained.
Elizabeth looked over to Hayden in shock. ” He’s the one who just did that goal right? He’s good. What’s his name? I only see his jersey number... number seven, right?” Elizabeth squinted towards the player in mention, but she couldn’t really see his face cause his back was turned and not to mention they were pretty far away.
The familiar name rang into her ears. Mark Hale... Mark Hale... Mark Hale.
There all the memories came floating back to her as she remembered her past with the same name. It must be a coincidence, she thought.
Right there, the man himself turned around and smiled towards their crowd. The people screamed in adoration and congratulations for such a wonderful goal. Even Hayden was happy beside her, but she could only look at him in shock.
With a handful of fries, Elizabeth shoved it into her mouth. Not for the game, but for the shock she felt right there.
It really was him.